Sarah Jeong posted an insightful article on The Verge today titled "I tried leaving Facebook. I couldn’t" and I think it really encapsulates the reality of Facebook for many people, including most of my friends.
I deleted my Facebook account about a month ago after I discovered that somehow they had acquired my credit card number, which allowed me to easily submit money to donation forms that were embedded in a friend's status. An understandably useful feature but a step too far for me.
I have always been mindful of my Facebook account and what I shared on it. Not too much personal information, never my phone number, a distinct email address only used for that account, and even a separate browser with a Facebook container extension to protect their tracking of me around the web. Paranoid? Maybe, but their entire business is built around tracking my entire digital life and selling insights about who I am to advertisers. My trust in them to protect that information was non-existent, even before the most reason scandal.
When I discovered that they had my credit card number without me having explicitly given it to them, I shook my head and said that was enough. We have all gotten comfortable with a little invasiveness and tracking on the web in order to use free features, but there are lines that should not be crossed. I found one for me and it was a clear, solid line with an unwillingness to compromise. I debated for a day and then axed it.
This is not the first time I have deleted a Facebook account either. In early 2014, there was a rather emotionally charged discussion with a former partner that made me decide I should try to live without. Lasted about a year before the constant missing of things brought me back. Sarah gets it entirely right, Facebook has lifted an immense amount of social labor of our shoulders. With Facebook, it is so darn easy to keep track of people, check-in, checkout, create groups, read the news, plan events, play games, share cool videos, etc., etc. And when nearly everyone uses it for those purposes, not being part of it means you get left behind and a bit lost.
And there is no alternative. Everyone, including Senators and Representatives, keep on trying to find parallels to get a handle on Facebook. There is none like it in the world today. Facebook is not a car company, it is not a financial company, it is not a company with tangible items or simply just data in a database. It is all about the connections.
And creating all the connections and their social history for billions of people is a damn hard and complicated thing to accomplish. Facebook may very well be irreplaceable.