OPINION: Why we all need to take a breather from Facebook
Facebook is cutting off its nose to spite its face. And not just when it comes to Australian news.
For anyone who hasn't heard, the background story is this - the Federal Government made a law asking social media heavyweights to chip in for the news on their sites. They said no, and in response, have pulled Aussie news from their platform, taking organisations both big and small in the bloodbath.
Facebook could have come to the table. After all, they make money from us all. Instead, they have decided to set a precedent that will only end up serving as proof of their growing redundancy.
But here's the thing. Social media sites used to be fun. Anyone antique enough to remember the colourful, glistening heyday of Myspace will attest to that.
Pick a pretty theme, pick a song or two, rank your friends (yes, we really did that kids). It was just good, silly, social fun.
I still remember when Facebook first started taking off and someone I know emailed me an invite. I looked at the interface for the log-in page and after all the hot pink and graphic design of other platforms all I could think was "well this looks dull".
I held off joining for as long as I possibly could. But slowly, everyone I knew migrated over. Myspace became a wasteland and I was forced to make the switch.
At first it wasn't so bad. Algorithms were nowhere near as regimented. But in time, things became more and more controlled. You weren't ranking your best friends in Facebook, its algorithm was ranking them for you.
Everything ebbs and flows, and while Facebook is a giant now, it doesn't take much for people to turn away. Especially when you're taking away something as vital as actual, real news.
Facebook has also become an increasingly negative space filled with political opinions and myriad arguments. It has actually become tiring.
Then there's the strange algorithm dictating what constitutes a breach and what doesn't. Having received a three-day ban over literally nothing, I disputed this with Facebook. Facebook responded with a seven-day ban instead, before sending an automated apology stating they'd got it wrong.
But then I was left scratching my head when I reported a so-called meme making fun of child sexual abuse in a very disturbing way. Facebook came back to tell me it did not breach any guideline. I tried again, to appeal, and yet again was told this offensive image was simply not in breach of anything. From speaking to friends, I am not the only person this is happening to.
Something too, which is out of Facebook's control but proving utterly exhausting, is the cancel culture running rampant on so-called leftbook groups.
I was a member of a vegan food group, for example. A place where I just expect to see food, talk about food and maybe check out a few recipes here and there.
That was all well and good until someone piped up with a post about how much they hated conservative politics and believed in Communism. I simply talked about the reasons why I didn't believe Communism was a suitable system of government and within minutes found myself blocked and banned from the group.
Facebook has fast become a political cesspit filled with anger, vitriol, cancel culture and intolerance of opinion, somehow over-governing user behaviour while under-governing truly offensive, racist, sexist, abusive content.
In the time I was banned from Facebook, I can honestly say, I felt good. Those few days while the giant's algorithm barred me from anything more than browsing inspired me to do something I hadn't done in years - I simply deleted the app. If I couldn't communicate, what was the point?
What happened? My screen time went down, I felt better about life. I didn't have to go on food pages only to be bombarded with extreme left-wing politics (or any extreme politics for that matter, because let's face it, the extremes of any political spectrum are downright exhausting).
I found direct pathways to talk to friends, I downloaded other upcoming social media apps that are much more cleverly made for the user to enjoy their experience and to take in images, music, culture and expression without the gloomy overtures and robots making decisions.
It just felt more human.
And that's just the thing. Facebook is a giant now, but it is far from being immortal. I can't be the only one finding it more like a chore to log in than to log out.
The more Facebook pushes users away, the more users will realise they never quite needed to rely on it anyway. The epiphanies will be real.
One of the most dangerous things for anyone trying to market themselves is ignoring your audience. And you can't tell me the Australian public will be happy not being able to post or share in news links. It's just one more way the platform is controlling what we see and do.
But why do we have to stand for it? There is nothing making us beholden to Facebook except the fact we think we are beholden to Facebook.
In literally one day, you and all your friends could move over to a better platform more designed for people. And their friends could move away too.
Maybe it's high time we all hightailed it outta here and headed for greener pastures.
What I wouldn't give to go back to the colourful days of Myspace in 2005.
And don't forget, a few decades ago we were all getting by socially with little more than a home phone.
Facebook is, somewhat by accident, giving us all the cues we need to get out of our servitude and head for a much-needed digital detox.
Go back to using the bookmarks bar on your computer for your favourite sites like we did back in 2000 (that way you control what you see too, instead of a robot cherry-picking your content for you), join political groups in real life who you actually want to hear from and contribute to, support a charity in reality instead of just liking its post, pick up the phone and text or call your friends.
We got this.