Since the story about Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of Facebook data broke, many users have been deleting their profiles. Celebrities such as Elon Musk, Brian Acton and Jim Carrey have also jumped on the bandwagon and are encouraging others to follow suit.
Is it that easy to quit Facebook? The short answer is: no.
It’s not that easy because, naively, we forget how deeply Facebook is rooted in our society and how we use many of the services it provides every day. If you search on Google for “alternative to Facebook” the first result (no it isn’t Google+) is an article by WIRED recommending a total of seven different apps to replace what Facebook does. If you want to move away from ‘the’ social network, you may need to find a replacement to cover the following:
- NewsFeed: to keep getting the latest news from your favourite media outlets.
- Messenger: to stay in touch with family and friends (WhatsApp is great but it’s owned by Facebook and you don’t have all your Facebook contact telephone numbers).
- Events: to invite people to your birthday party or housewarming, as well as to be invited to and stay up to date on other events.
- Birthday reminders: if you are one of those who don’t miss a single birthday wish, it’s probably a feat powered by Facebook.
- MarketPlace: Yes, you can buy stuff on Facebook too.
- Groups: Groups killed the forum stars, and that’s a good thing.
- Third-Party Logins: Handy to avoid filling in a form each and every time you sign up on a new site.
We could also add ‘Pictures’ and ‘Live stream’ (WIRED forgot about them apparently) which bring the number of apps or platforms needed to replace Facebook up to a minimum of nine!
Would all Facebook users leave the network to install all these apps? It’s doubtful!
Furthermore, WIRED concludes saying that deleting Facebook won’t
“…change the online digital economy that profits by collecting your personal information and selling it to data brokers. Facebook collects arguably the most private information, but plenty of other popular social networking apps like Snapchat and Twitter collect your data too.”
So what can you do?
Well, the Cambridge Analytica scandal may have created room for new business ventures that take data privacy seriously. The problem is, nobody has created a real alternative to Facebook that offers the same services without giving away user data*.
Why has it not happened yet? Well, because there are more questions than answers at the moment and we wonder if data safety and privacy would be enough to move millions of users away from Facebook. Some considerations:
- If a new platform doesn’t have access to your data, it may struggle to make money. How should it be financed? Are users willing to pay for these services? This could mean the end of advertising campaigns and tailored preference-based content.
- Even if a new platform emerges tomorrow morning, how many people would make the switch? Would you join a platform if none of your friends are there? Remember Google+?
- The new platform would never have the same level of user connections that Facebook has, at least not at the beginning. Think about all the friend requests you sent over the last 10 years. Would you start sending them again? I bet no. So, would a less interconnected social network be appealing for new users?
- Last but not least, there are 2.2 billion monthly active users on Facebook (crazy, right?) and the numbers keep on growing. Can that be stopped?
Getting rid of Facebook is not an easy feat and creating a successful alternative may take years. Not even a dozen Elon Musks are likely to bring down such a deeply engrained piece of social machinery. At the same time, nothing is forever, so we might just have to sit on the dock of the bay to see what will happen.
*You may find some websites advertising single platforms which are supposed to be an alternative to Facebook (read this one) but the truth is, no one offer all Facebook’s services altogether.