From an earlier post you may know I'm not a fan of Facebook. It's not because of features ,many of which are quite nice, and not because of who uses it (everyone?). It's because of the Facebook business model, which leads them to manipulate your content – posts, likes, reads, etc. – to increasing their profits, often at the cost of also increasing online divisiveness.
Gripes aside there is just too much content and too many people on FB to ignore. For instance I pay for the NY Time but they host a cooking group in FB, which is a great way to interact with people in a more or less harmless way. I could give many other examples of "good" use of Facebook. But I don't have a Facebook account (I deleted mine) so I can't engage with the group unless I get one. Why does the NY Times force me to have a Facebook account in order to join the group?
I have two gripes with Facebook:
- They weaponize my posts to get people to click – see my comments about Online Dystopia for the reasoning.
- They use my posts, likes, clicks, to serve ads to me. This I don't care so much about, it seems a reasonable price to pay for their features – and I work with recommender technology and so understand its benefits.
So how do I get the benefit of FB while avoiding the worst of their dark side? Some simple rules might work pretty well:
- Don't post about your every thought or bowel movement! Does anyone really need to do this, does anyone else really want to read it? You know the type who seem to post a running monolog about every detail of their existence, good or bad. With few exceptions no one wants to read this, but it certainly provides dangerous ammunition to FB's content targeting weapons, which they use to drive more clicks. Refuse to participate in this dark warfare. Post in dialogs with other individuals or only when there is something you really want to announce. Unfortunately my rule says that FB is just not at all a good place to debate or publish controversial ideas – sorry there are other places for this that have a better track record (Reddit anyone?). Basically think about what you are doing on Facebook and ask yourself, "can this be taken out of context and used to rile someone up?" Before Facebook we would filter our utterances based on the audience – let's return to this. Remember that almost anyone can read your utterances and Facebook actively injects them into other people's online lives to get more clicks.
- Read anything on FB that interests you. This activity can only feed their advertising to YOU and this you can ignore if you want.
- Never host or found a group on Facebook. There are platforms that are better for this, that can't or won't require people to have FB accounts and will not weaponize group content. Though Google is also flawed, their Groups feature (which I think does require a Google account unfortunately) doesn't allow group content to be weaponized. There are several other group or bulletin board services, some are free and allow self hosting or you could try the for-pay Discourse. If you are founding a group, please, please don't require a Facebook login, host it somewhere else so users can log in with the credentials of their choice.