Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

08 April 2018

Six Good Reasons to Delete Facebook


[For links to popular recent posts, click here.]

Introduction
1. Facebook’s “social relations” are illusory
2. Efficient “many-to-many” communication demands focus; Facebook has none
3. Unbeknownst to authorities, Facebook is already a dangerous monopolist, like Microsoft in its heyday and Google today
4. “Liking” (or not) fosters the worst impulses in people
5. Facebook is a waste of time
6. Facebook’s monopoly of social media discourages, if not precludes, the development of alternative social media platforms, thereby entrenching a defective and socially harmful platform
Conclusion

Introduction

This weekend marks the lull before a media storm. Next week Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress. It’s appropriate that he testify personally, for Facebook is his creation, and he still controls it personally.

Zuckerberg owns a majority of Facebook’s voting stock. So he personally, and no one else, is responsible for what Facebook is, does and has done. Those are the rules of capitalism.

Although Zuckerberg will be on the spot personally, it’s not as if he’ll be surprised by anything he might be asked. He’s had over fourteen years since his company’s website went live—and nearly six years since its IPO, which made him fabulously rich—to think about its impact on business, society and our democracy. He’s had well over a year to consider its impact on our 2016 elections. And it’s probably fair to say that Facebook is Zuckerberg’s whole life, at least professionally.

Furthermore, Zuckerberg will have the best lawyers, advisers, and PR mavens that money can buy. Some of them may be sitting at the table right next to him. They, too, likely will have had years, if not a decade, to think about what members of Congress will ask and how to answer. No doubt there will be more than a little “spin” and lots of unenforceable promises to do better in the future.

So before we all hear Zuckerberg’s carefully orchestrated responses to the burning questions about Facebook, it’s appropriate for each of us to ask of ourselves, “What has Facebook been to me? What has it done for or to me? What, if anything, has it added to my life? to my prospects for the future? What burdens has it put on me? What has it done for or to my society, my country, my species?”

I’ve asked those questions of myself, and I’ve decided to delete Facebook from my life, forever. Here are six reasons why.

1. Facebook’s “social relations” are illusory.

With Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg invented the entire category of “social media.” That category is dedicated to the proposition that programs like Facebook can enrich your social life by letting you find, recover and keep many “friends.” But is that true? Let’s take a look.

If you sleep the doctor-recommended eight hours per night, you have sixteen waking hours in your day. That’s 16 x 3,600 = 57,600 seconds. Can you maintain a thousand friends?

Unlikely. If you tried, you would have 57.6 seconds—less than a minute—to devote to each daily. And that’s if you didn’t eat, work, commute (without texting) or ever read a book or newspaper. Can you maintain a real relationship on a minute per day?

And let’s not even mention trying to maintain 10,000 “friends,” or a million. Doing that would give you, respectively, 5.7 seconds, or a little over half a second, to “spend” with each “friend” daily. The only way you can even communicate with people in that length of time is by mass-producing your communications. Then how, pray tell, do your “social relations” differ from modern electronic advertising?

This basic defect is not in Facebook’s execrable organization and totally non-intuitive privacy controls. It’s in Facebook’s basic plan, which contravenes human life and our species’social evolution. We evolved in clans of thirty or fewer individuals, which were small enough for us to get to know and trust each of them individually.

It’s impossible to duplicate that experience—our evolutionary paradigm for “friendship”—on a mass basis. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day or enough twists in our individual attention spans. Even the best Websites, of which Facebook is most definitely not one, don’t compress time. And as for compressing distance, does Facebook do anything that the telephone, e-mail, texting, FaceTime, Skype and What’s App don’t do more simply and better?

The very notion that anyone can have a thousand friends (let alone more!) is inconsistent with the human condition, at least if the word “friend” means anything real. Pols and celebrities try. Donald Trump would probably swear that he has many times that many friends. Maybe some of them would even identify themselves as such, if only to bask in the glow of a president’s celebrity and power.

But let the pol or celeb demand a big campaign contribution, loan, a job, or a shoulder to cry on, and the vast pool of so-called “friends” would quickly dry up to a puddle. As anyone over thirty knows, there are “friends” and there are friends, without the quotation marks. The ones in quotation marks are not the ones that most of us rely on to get through life. They’ll let you down when you need them. They might even bully, taunt or tease you.

Therefore, the fundamental premise of Facebook is at best fundamentally misguided. At worst, it’s a lie. Facebook doesn’t expand the electronic opportunities for friendship any more than our other electronic media already do. All it does is help keep a superficial and puerile numerical “score.”

2. Efficient “many-to-many” communication demands focus; Facebook has none.

What makes Facebook notable is that it’s the most widely used, if not the first, example of “many-to-many” communication. In that respect, it differs from the telephone and telegraph (one-to-one), and from radio, television and the distribution of recordings on disks, thumb drives or podcasts (one-to-many).

Ever since the Internet’s 1996 release for general commercial use, thinkers have speculated on the its ability to support many-to-many and many-to-one-communication. But not until Facebook’s advent was this type of communication used in a big way. It’s truly something new under the Sun, which our species never had until the Internet waxed wide.

Although Facebook is the most notorious, today it’s not the only example of many-to-many communication. Two other examples also enjoy wide use. The most widespread besides Facebook is the many product reviews that Amazon pioneered, and that almost every major on-line seller offers today. On these sellers’ sites, many buyers and users of particular goods or services recount their experiences for the benefit of others thinking of buying the same things.

It’s hard to see a downside for this example of many-to-many communication. It has broken the mold of caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) that prevailed in sales from time immemorial. It has forced sellers to sell things on their merits, not with lies, sex and spin. And it has made comparison shopping easy: what once might have taken a car and a day you can do in an hour or two sitting at your desk. On-line reviews are truly a gigantic improvement in informed shopping.

But what makes this version of many-to-many communication valuable is its focus. When you visit a website like Land’s End’s, Lowe’s, or Home Depot’s, you already know what types of things it sells. Once you narrow down your choice down to one or more particular products, you can read multiple honest reviews for exactly those things.

No time or energy is wasted in search. Instead, the search function is an intrinsic part of the many-to-many communication. On most sellers’ websites, the independent-purchaser reviews link to the same web page containing the product description and price.

Before turning to Facebook—the least focused and organized of today’s many-to-many communications modalities—let’s look at another, intermediate example: the no-longer-so-ubiquitous reader comments on news articles.

Just a few years ago, all the major national online newspapers allowed readers to comment at least on editorials and op-eds, and sometimes on news articles. These comments offered several putative benefits. They involved readers more intimately in the news and encouraged them to think about what they read. They let readers express themselves. They encouraged dialogue among readers. And (albeit rarely) they let expert or experienced readers contribute additional facts or news for free—a benefit to both the publisher and other readers.

That was the theory. In fact, online readers’ comments on news and editorials suffered from a lack of focus at three levels. First, the average news or opinion piece makes several points, and commenters would often pick the more obscure points or go off on tangents. This happened regularly during Obama’s presidency, when an article on virtually any subject would provoke trolls to castigate Obama and “libtards” (a contraction of “liberal retard”). As a result, many comments often resembled insults traded by teenagers on a junior-high-school playground.

Second, the majority of the comments (by volume, not quality) added little or nothing to the discussion. Most contained just raw opinion, without a single, solitary identifiable fact, let alone a verifiable one. Some that I read revealed astounding factual ignorance, for example, denying that Cuba was ever a US colony or that solar-panel engineers know that the Sun doesn’t shine at night.

Finally, there was no focus as to commenters, i.e., no way to enforce the most rudimentary requirements of knowledge and civility on the part of people submitting comments. There was certainly no easy way—analogous to the actual-purchase requirement for product reviews—to require commenters to have any useful knowledge or experience relevant to the topic under discussion.

For a time, the New York Times did what was necessary to provide this sort of focus. It hired actual human moderators and had them read and review readers’ comments before posting them. Apparently this expedient proved too difficult or expensive, and the Times, like the WSJ, the Washington Post and Bloomberg.com, eventually dropped reader comments from most if not all of its stories.

If memory serves, the Times comment-moderation experiment lasted less than a year. In the absence of an effective automated substitute for moderation, all our major national online newspapers decided, apparently independently, that many-to-many Internet communication in the form of readers’ comments on news stories lacked sufficient focus to avoid misuse, abuse and a waste of time and energy. So that particular experiment in many-to-many communication failed.

But if reader comments on news failed, how much more likely to fail is Facebook? Reader comments at least had the focus of a single story. Facebook has nothing similar. At its inception, it was built around people—individuals. Anything at all in their lives, or of interest to them, was and is fair game. Facebook’s business model is to capture their attention by any means, fair or foul, and sell that attention to advertisers.

So Facebook has only minimal content controls, mostly automated and therefore circumventable, for such things as profanity, hate, terrorism and extremism. It also tries to respond to user-reported abuse. Outside these areas, anything goes, and even within them persistent posters can break through if they are sufficiently subtle and guileful.

The only real control built into Facebook from the outset involves people, i.e., circles of so-called “friends.” Initially, the default setting allowed anyone to post on everyone’s Wall. Later Facebook limited posting to “friends” of “friends” by default.

Now think about that. Anyone can become anyone’s “friend” on Facebook simply by submitting a request and having it granted. So a teenager’s or voter’s greater circle of “friends” includes not only everyone who bulls his way into that person’s own inner circle, but all the people whom the inner circles of “friends”—in their infinite wisdom, care, and discretion—admit as “their” friends. It doesn’t take much distrust of human nature to understand how Russian trolls, with subtlety and guile, could worm their way into tens of millions of supposedly “private” circles of so-called “friends,” if only by pretending to be what they were not until they were admitted.

To summarize, Facebook has virtually no effective subject-matter controls. With only circumventable automated attempts to control abuse, it has no reliable means to cabin or direct discussion. This is the “random” aspect of Facebook that I discussed in an earlier essay. I won’t belabor the point here, other than to note that Facebook is designed to be a general discussion board without subject matter limits—an attempt to re-create the entire Web in the small. (This point has competitive implications, to which we will turn later.)

The only serious point of control in Facebook is control-by-person, i.e., by limiting one’s “friends.” That, too, is easily circumventable by trolls, spooks and advertisers with a minimum of subtlety and guile. So take away the weak and circumventable attempts to control extremism with software, and Facebook is basically a wide-open platform. But for one feature, to which we next turn, it is therefore subject, in theory, to the same objections that killed readers’ comments in major online newspapers.

3. Unbeknownst to authorities, Facebook is already a dangerous monopolist, like Microsoft in its heyday and Google today.

As I reported in another post, I have a lifetime of personal and professional experience with computers and software. And I’m something of a perfectionist. So I like—and I tend to visit—websites with the clean sleekness and intuitive operation of Google’s and Amazon’s.

In comparison, I think Facebook’s website is disorganized to the point of chaos. It’s also hard to learn and hard to navigate, with hard-to-adjust, non-intuitive settings (even if its management weren’t changing them constantly under public pressure). Comparing Facebook’s website to shopping, news, bank, brokerage, political, general information and government websites that I visit, I would give it, at best, a D+ for website quality. And that’s without considering its negative political and social impact, just its presentation, organization, and ease of use.

So I’m really not eager to see Facebook entrench itself as the go-to “social media” site for our era, just because it happened to be the first and was lucky enough to start entrenching itself before anyone noticed how bad it is. Yet that’s probably what’s going to happen, due to Facebook’s powerful monopoly leverage.

Here’s how that leverage arises. In order to access anyone’s Facebook page, I have to have a Facebook account myself. I know this because I’ve had an extraordinary amount of trouble creating and maintaining a workable password with Facebook. When I can’t access my account, I can’t access anything on Facebook, whether a pol’s page, corporate pages (which I seldom visit), or the linked page of a “friend.”

Now this doesn’t matter much to me. I have a minimalist account, which I visit once a year, if that. My profile is minimal, and much of it is private. I have probably spent less than five hours reading and writing on my Wall since I opened the account, I can’t remember when. So if I have to abandon my account and all its data (more on this below) to delete Facebook from my life, that’s fine with me.

But most Facebook users are not like me. They access their Facebook account, read their Wall and write on it daily, if not hourly. They have hundreds if not thousands of hours invested in their accounts and their Walls. And notwithstanding how badly organized the site is, they have invested even more hours in learning it and using it, to the point where learning a better site would be an unwelcome chore.

All these points create what antitrust experts call “network effects.” (I taught antitrust law as a law professor for over ten years.) They tie users to Facebook not because it’s good or useful, but because switching to another platform—even a much better one—would entail enormous “switching costs,” including abandoning or reformatting old data and learning new tricks.

That wouldn’t be so bad if all the costs were the user’s own. But they’re not. By now, virtually every politician and nonprofit group in America has its own Facebook page. Virtually every corporation that sells things under a brand has one, too. And all the cost and labor they put into their Facebook pages is available to outside users only if they have a Facebook account themselves. Not only that: since Facebook has no real subject-matter limitations, the average Internet user probably expects every pol, celebrity, and business to have a Facebook page.

This is what antitrust experts call a classic tie. In order to get what you want—others’ Facebook pages, indeed, practically everyone’s—you have to take what (in my case) you don’t want—a Facebook account and page of your own. And once you do, you’re trapped into that account by your own learning and switching costs, and by third parties’ investments in their own pages.

Even that wouldn’t be so bad if Facebook were only a social medium for specialists, for example, cat lovers or climate-change scientists. But it isn’t. Facebook purports to be the Mother of All Social Media and has the monopoly clout to match.

So the really dismal thing about Facebook is not that it has (in my view) a D+ website. It’s not even that Russian trolls and many others have used it for nefarious purposes and that we have no real assurances that Facebook will (or can!) stop them. It’s that, unless our antitrust authorities and would-be competitors wake up soon, we are all stuck with Facebook for the foreseeable future when we could have so much more.

I hope that some enterprising competitor, or a state or federal antitrust enforcer, sues to break the link between having your own Facebook page and being able to visit others’. If Facebook is going to create a “social media” garden with virtually no subject-matter limitations except patent extremism, it at least ought not to create an entrance barrier that strenghthens its already considerable monopoly.

4. “Liking” (or not) fosters the worst impulses in people.

For advertisers and “political operatives“ (including nowadays Russian spooks), your “likes” are Facebooks’s secret windows to your soul. Properly collected and analyzed, they let sellers of goods, services and false ideologies allegedly know you better than your own mother. They are what underlies Facebook’s multibillion dollar corporate valuation, and they are what some day might make democracy obsolete.

Yet for me, Facebook’s “likes” have a much more basic reason for revulsion. They conjure up images of ancient Rome. Remember gladiators’ fights to the death in the Coliseum? When one fighter pinned another down and was about to deliver the coup de grace, he would look upward toward the Emperor, who would give thumbs up or thumbs down, sealing the defeated fighter’s fate. Occasionally, the Emperor would turn to the audience, which would participate in the decision, thumbs up or thumbs down.

That’s about the size of it. A man’s life, his achievements, marriage, family and history—all reduced to thumbs up or thumbs down. Something as trivial as how well he fought that day, how he nodded or thrust his sword, or even the color of his loincloth, could decide his fate.

That’s about the level of thought and care that go into “likes” on Facebook. I call them the “imperial likes,” because that’s how the Roman Emperor made life-or-death decisions about gladiators in the Coliseum. No thought. No care. Just raw feeling, whim and caprice.

We Americans once built the greatest society in human history on a solid foundation of Science and Reason. We were the first society to give virtually all of our citizens a high-school education, and most of them a shot at college. And what did we teach them in high school and college? How to make decisions the rational way, marshalling all the facts and evidence, debating the pros and cons, and deciding with all the care of judges of a debating contest or in a court.

Now we are teaching our kids to make decisions the same way as did Emperor Caligula or drunken revelers in the Roman Coliseum. The “imperial like,” indeed. It belongs in history, in brutal gladiatorial combat, or in spectacles of early Christians thrown to the lions. In the twenty-first century, it’s an abomination for a civilized society. And so is every political, social or business decision made by counting “likes.”

This is even more true when the average Facebook “like,” like the average Facebook post, is hardly specific as to subject matter. When you see a “like” below a post containing several points, how do you know to which it pertains?

Facebook “likes” have only one rational use. They don’t say much about the subject of the “like,” even if the subject is clear enough to discern. But apparently they tell a lot about the “liker.” “Likes” were the principal feature of Facebook that Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign, and Russian trolls used to discern how to press Facebook users’ personal buttons to get them to despise Hillary and vote for Trump.

“Likes” are great for manipulating rubes in a supposedly democratic society. For making decisions in a rational society, whether a democracy or not, they are about as useful and reliable as President Trump’s Tweets.

5. Facebook is a waste of time.

I didn’t suddenly wake up one day and decide, in the abstract, that Facebook is worthless to me. That conclusion grew slowly, over years of (admittedly sparse) use.

With my privacy setting allowing “friends” of “friends” to post, I often found that contributions from people I hardly knew, or didn’t remember at all, were filling up my Wall. The babies pictured had rosy cheeks and the wedding gowns were white, but since I didn’t really know the people involved, I didn’t care much about them. When they regaled me with their travels or their thoughts (sometimes conclusory “likes”) on politics, I cared even less.

As time went on, I found about 10% of the stuff posted on my Wall worth the time to read it, let alone to respond (if a response were even necessary or expected). In fact, I began to notice that, most of the time, a response wasn’t necessary at all. For some reason, people who hardly knew me, or who maybe had known me half a century ago, when I was an entirely different person, felt entitled and compelled to comment on my life, or on the life of my “friends.”

What a useless enterprise! As time went on, I noticed something else: the most frequent commentators seemed to have little else to do. They were retired or, if commenting before retirement time, they didn’t seem have jobs, or at least jobs in which they were engaged. Commenting on my page, and reporting on (usually boring) events in their own lives seemed to me a substitute for getting a life. For those of us who already have a life, this seems superfluous.

Some day, an enterprising doctoral student in the field of economics or software will tally up all the time wasted on Facebook by students neglecting their studies, workers neglecting their jobs, and actual and would-be thinkers neglecting their primary means of contributing to our species’ advancement. Even today, we can roughly assess the magnitude of the societal loss by reciting the statistic that the average smart-phone user touches his or her phone 2,600 times per day.

There are many reasons for those touches, but surely Facebook is among them. And when you consider that Facebook exists to channel those diversions of your attention to people you may not even know, to businesses that you may not wish to patronize, and to causes that you may abhor, you can intuit the damage to yourself, your career and your business. Just think of those diversions going on day after day, hour after hour, and year after year—all for purposes utterly alien to your own. Then you may delete Facebook as I have decided to do.

6. Facebook’s monopoly of social media discourages, if not precludes, the development of alternative social media platforms, thereby entrenching a defective and socially harmful platform.

Why do other people use Facebook? I’ve been scratching my head trying to answer that question. So far, I’ve come up with only four reasons.

First, people with big families use Facebook because it provides an easier means to keep in touch than maintaining multiple e-mail lists for various branches of a big family. If limited to “friends” alone, and if friends are limited to family, a Facebook page can be kept relatively private, as long as Facebook’s non-intuitive privacy settings actually work as described.

Second, I believe and have read reports that adolescents use Facebook as part of their social development, i.e., their learning what social interactions are appropriate and beneficial for them. Unfortunately, Facebook has a number of deficiencies in this regard, most of which have been well reported. It tends to emphasize the “mechanical” aspects of “friendship,” such as numbers of “friends” and frequency of “likes.” For weak minds, or in cases of arrested development, this emphasis can cause depression, promote hazing and bullying, and even lead to suicide. And Facebook does nothing to teach the immense value that a single, lifelong, loyal and devoted real friend can have.

The third answer has real meat. Politicians, celebrities and businesses whose income depends on popularity (such as actors, artists, talent agents and couturiers) feel that they must have a Facebook account just to catch the occasional wave of a social movement or “meme” that “goes viral.” For mercenary reasons, as well as for ego, they want a reliable sail to catch every wayward gust of instant popularity arising from an event, initiative, new product or ad. They never know when or how such a gust might arrive, and Facebook has done (albeit badly, in my view) all the programming needed to provide a useful sail.

The final answer also has some merit. There are non-profit political and social organizations that cannot afford the programming or equipment to develop and maintain their own websites and servers. By using Facebook’s pre-programmed pages and servers, they can maintain a web presence with minimal development cost, albeit at the cost of putting up with Facebook’s poor organization and programming deficiencies. (Such organizations can also use Google’s much better organized and programmed Blogger for the same purpose, but for historical reasons it’s not used as much in that way.)

But for all those organizations and businesses that can afford their own Websites, Facebook seems a redundant, unnecessary expense. With their own Websites, they can have their own (presumably much better) organization, protection of privacy, and customer-care software. They can keep their own records their own way, presumably more securely. And they can present to the public exactly the face they desire, including a face that shows far more competence and modernity than Facebook’s random Walls and pages do.

So there are a few categories of users that may need what Facebook provides, regardless of the downsides. But for those that have realistic alternatives—whether for having a life or a web presence—the Faustian bargain may be too great. Nevertheless, with the power of its monopoly and the generality of its subject-matter purview, Facebook is likely to make it hard, if not impossible, for other social media to arise and fill their needs.

Conclusion

My personal decision to delete Facebook was easy. I don’t use it much, and when I try to use it, it mostly annoys me. When I read about what it is doing to the country I love and was lucky enough to be born into, it does more than annoy me. It depresses and outrages me.

As far as I can tell, there is nothing that Facebook can do for me that Google and Gmail cannot. Google supports this blog superbly, in a way that is well organized, intuitive and professionally backed up. Every old friend that I can recall reclaiming I recovered through a Google search, not through Facebook. So I don’t need to enter Facebook’s closed garden to find old friends or enrich my life in any way.

More important, I’m appalled by Facebook’s impact on our political and social life. Even before it became a rallying ground for white supremacists, it had provided a safe place for Islamic terrorists to recruit otherwise innocent but gullible Americans. Zuckerberg’s anti-terrorist measures, in my view, have been too little, too late and too half-hearted.

As for Facebook’s role in our national polarization, our steady drift toward the extreme right and the abysmal regime of The Donald, what can I say? I’ve already written two other essays on the subject (1 and 2), expressing my firm conviction that Facebook was important, if not instrumental, in giving us the worst president, with by far the worst character, in our national history.

So if nothing else, my deleting Facebook is an act of protest. I am protesting what I see as incompetent management of a poorly-thought-out Website that, in my view, has had far greater negative than positive impact—precisely due to lack of thoughtful engineering and foresight of consequences. (I won’t even mention the hubris of trying to cover the entire category of social media. Maybe that hubris was inadvertent, as Facebook was the first.)

Having spent most of my three professional careers (scientist/engineer, lawyer and law professor) on the periphery of the computer industry, I have a sense of how much better off I and we all would be if Zuckerberg had actually done his job well or more narrowly. In that respect I see us as repeating our national experience with Microsoft and its Windows operating system and Internet Explorer web browser. (DOS, in contrast, was a good OS.) With an apparently illegal tie, Microsoft crushed Netscape and maintained its OS monopoly for about a decade, until Steve Jobs returned to Apple and took the consumer market away from Microsoft.

Just so, with Facebook, a so-called genius got a jump on the market with what I see as a slipshod, thoughtless product. He now has achieved not just a commanding lead, but a perhaps insuperable monopoly. And given all the network effects and switching costs of social media, he may be able to maintain that monopoly. Even worse, given a monopoly of a space without subject matter limitations, he may be able to squeeze or force out many specialized newcomers to the field of social media, who are not so arrogant as to try to capture the whole category.

The biggest difference from Microsoft, of course, is that Facebook’s monopoly is far more detrimental. Microsoft’s operating system directly impacted only the computer industry and its fellow travelers. In Facebook’s case, the effect on social life, education, and our democracy is severe. It is this collateral damage—and the likelihood of it persisting for far longer than is desirable—that ought to motivate both government regulation and a salubrious push by investors and entrepreneurs to take at least part of Facebook’s monopoly away. Too weak or too dilatory intervention by both government and the private sector could allow not just an economic setback, but the loss of our Republic.

Endnote: In one respect, Facebook added insult to my injury. When I went to delete my account, it advised me persuasively to download my data first, in order to preserve it. (Doing so would also let me see and perhaps prove whether subsequent events had put my private data in unfriendly hands.)

But Facebook also warned me that downloading my data would take some time. In that respect, if not others, it was accurate. I started the downloading process on Wednesday, March 28. It is now late Saturday, April 7—about nine days later—and I have yet to receive notice that my download is complete, let alone a download.

If the delay continues for another few days, I will delete my account regardless, confident that there’s little or nothing in it that I really need to protect or preserve. Yet the thought occurred to me that this long delay may be yet another means by which Facebook coerces its customers to stay in the fold.

Footnote: For an accurate early assessment of Facebook’s collateral damage to our nation and our species, read this editorial and this “briefing,” published by The Economist Magazine last November, just a year after Donald Trump’s astonishing election as president. Totaling only five pages, these two summaries reveal all the horror we know and much of the horror we don’t yet know intimately, but suspect.

If this reading doesn’t convince you that the harm Facebook has already done (mostly inadvertently, but undoubtedly negligently) outweighs its advertising revenue, the jobs it has created, and its corporate valuation by many orders of magnitude, nothing will.

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