“Helping to make the world more open and connected”—not

Yet another update: Facebook was instrumental in helping anti-vaccine "protesters" organize to disrupt vaccinations at LA's Dodger Stadium, one of the largest vaccination sites in heavily-afflicted Los Angeles County.

Another update: the majority of "civic" groups on Facebook are toxic and divisiveand Facebook has known for years that this was a problem and systematically and deliberately decapitated attempts to mitigate it. 

Update: If you’re still not convinced about this, read Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang’s mea culpa (“I have blood on my hands”).

No, sorry, but we cannot friend or follow each other on Facebook or Twitter.

Once I was a supporter of the ability of these technologies to bring people together. Instead they have driven people apart, and they have done so knowingly, cynically, and for far longer than they admitted publicly. They have likely done so at your expense. To be fair, though, their executives and founders have made a lot of money, so perhaps that’s an acceptable price to pay for your personal privacy, the undermining of consensual democracy, and the provision of more effective tools of control to authoritarian governments around the world.

There are many versions of this argument but I think Kara Swisher’s version is the most articulate and concise. Shortly after she wrote it, the New York Times published a devastating investigation showing that for months Facebook followed a strategy of “delay, deny, and deflect,” even hiring a public relations firm to cast doubt on Facebook’s accusers, in part by spreading fake news that George Soros was behind the financing of those accusations (while Soros is a vocal Facebook critic, that statement is false) and lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic. Is that what passes for Facebook’s self-styled mission of “making the world more open and connected”?

Even if my own activities on those sites do not spread hate and divisiveness, even if all I do is check up on my personal friends, the companies’ business models are dependent on many people like me using the site so that they can monetize their advertising, and I am not willing to be an enabler of companies that behave this way. I lived my entire adult life without those companies and I do not need them now. Neither do you. Find another way to stay in touch with your friends and don’t enable a business model that benefits from—indeed, is arguably reliant upon—the wide and rapid spread of vile speech. (And I realize Twitter isn’t as overtly guilty of the same things Facebook is; they are merely the most efficient disinformation-spreading mechanism humanity has ever seen, and they aren‘t handling that responsibility terribly well.)

After all, as Bret Stephens recently wrote: “Tweeting and trolling are easy. Mastering the arts of conversation and measured debate is hard. Texting is easy. Writing a proper letter is hard. Looking stuff up on Google is easy. Knowing what to search for in the first place is hard. Having a thousand friends on Facebook is easy. Maintaining six or seven close adult friendships over the space of many years is hard. Swiping right on Tinder is easy. Finding love — and staying in it — is hard.”

Do the hard thing.