By the Editorial Board
If you’ve spent any time online (which is pretty hard to avoid in this day and age), then you’ve seen your fair share of online ads. Often these ads are weirdly relevant. For instance, if you searched something on Google recently, next thing you know, you’ll see an ad about it.
One website’s ads have always stood out as particularly relevant: Facebook’s. They target you based on your gender, age, and interests. Let’s not forget about those quizzes claiming to be able to tell you your “Top 3 Personality Traits,” or something. Those are freaky accurate too.
After this week, we know why. Facebook has been giving your, and many other of the site’s millions of users’, data away to outside companies and advertising sources. Some of these advertising sources are concerned that the leaked data will lead to a huge exodus away from Facebook, but we at The Griffin aren’t so sure.
Facebook is a huge social media platform. It’s also one of the most problematic social media platforms (though Instagram sure does give Facebook a run for its money). To an extent, every social media site promotes social comparison. Instagram is all about representing your life in the most aesthetically pleasing way to get the most likes from the most followers. Snapchat shows off just how much fun you have with your friends all the time. Facebook does both of these things as well, but takes the opportunities for social comparison to the next level.
Many of us here at The Griffin use Facebook to keep in touch with high school friends and far away family members, because Facebook is a great way to share life events and accomplishments. Which means it’s also a great way to feel behind about your own life’s progression. Your best friend just got an amazing internship, your cousin is engaged, and what have you been doing? Probably going to college, getting good grades, making meaningful connections with your peers and professors, but nothing worth posting about, which can easily make someone feel like they’re behind, or their life isn’t as good as someone else’s.
Facebook has been blamed for rising rates of depression, which honestly, isn’t that surprising. We all know plenty of people who have taken a break from Facebook for weeks, or even months, at a time because they’ve recognized the toxicity of the platform.
Most often, people just take breaks from Facebook, though. They don’t actually leave Facebook. They’ll log out of the app on their phone, but they won’t delete that app. No matter how toxic the platform may sometimes get, it remains one of the mostly widely used social media sites.
The question is, will the news of Facebook leaking our personal information be the thing that finally gets us to leave the site? CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t seem concerned, waiting five days to release a statement about the issue, and then avoiding the main issue in favor of defending Facebook’s gathering of user information. Except we all willingly gave Facebook our information, so that’s not the issue. Advertisers also don’t seem concerned about the potential exodus. The same advertisers who have been using our personal information to their advantage. One pointed out in an interview for CNBC, “People have used Facebook for eight, 10 years or more… people are going to delete an app they’ve spent that much time building a presence? I don’t think so.”
We at The Griffin are inclined to agree. Facebook made a mistake, for sure. Giving away user information is a violation of privacy, and users have the right to be upset about it. It remains to be seen what exactly Facebook will do to remedy the situation.
In the meantime, though, Facebook seems to be continuing running as normally. People post about leaving Facebook, on Facebook, clearly showing that they’re too busy continuing to post to actually take the initiative to leave the site they claim to dislike so much. Maybe it’s the apathy that seems to plague our generation, or maybe it’s the very culture Facebook has created. Thanks to social media, our lives have become less private. Millennials and Gen Z especially don’t view their personal information as being as private as previous generations. We’re used to putting it all out there, whether that’s by posting successes on Facebook or frustrations on Twitter. So maybe our personal information being given away doesn’t matter to this generation.
Either way, the information leak is unlikely to be the reason people decide to leave Facebook. On the bright side, the whole situation has served as a reminder that Facebook poses more problems than just leaked information. It promotes social comparison which in turn promotes depression.
The Griffin isn’t encouraging you to leave Facebook, but we at The Griffin recognize that it’s always a good idea to take a step back and look at the purpose social media is actually serving in your life. Are you using Facebook to connect with old friends, or are you using Facebook to compare yourself with old friends?
If the leaked information makes you upset, leave Facebook. If the culture of comparison makes you unhappy, leave Facebook. The social media site has made some mistakes and is overdue for change. If people really start using the site less, we’ll see that change. If you’re fine with Facebook as it is, though, stay. Whatever decision you make, make it based on what you want and what you’re ok with. Facebook will get the message or it won’t.