It’s really not that difficult.

If you can rationalize being part of an enterprise that

If you can rationalize all of that, and more, and still console yourself that somehow your own actions, data are not part of the above… well insert cliché of availability of cheap Arizona ocean front property.

I live in Arizona, and I know where the ocean is.

If you rationalize being part of supporting and supplying a surveillance business because “it’s the only way to stay in touch with people” and resort to poor grandma or Aunt Bertha who would be cut off, well you are part of tossing their identity and data under the bus as well. You are discounting their intellect to possible communicate any other way and you are slacking off on assisting them.

Just because it’s “easy”. Or “convenient”.

Humans communicated long before this company existed and they will after it crumbles.

The numbers are big, but not immune; from John Lancester’s You Are The Product (my emphasis added):

Perhaps the biggest potential threat to Facebook is that its users might go off it. Two billion monthly active users is a lot of people, and the ‘network effects’ – the scale of the connectivity – are, obviously, extraordinary. But there are other internet companies which connect people on the same scale – Snapchat has 166 million daily users, Twitter 328 million monthly users – and as we’ve seen in the disappearance of Myspace, the onetime leader in social media, when people change their minds about a service, they can go off it hard and fast.

For that reason, were it to be generally understood that Facebook’s business model is based on surveillance, the company would be in danger.

How can you ignore the obvious extend of its business model? That there is a space for alternatives?

Be part of that threat.



On the back of this card:

Do not wait for some benevolent entity do this for you; make it happen directly

Or just keep believing your rationalizations.

Featured Image: Color modified and evil logo superimposed on Wikimedia Commons photo Exit Sign Above Australian Door released into the public domain.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I really need to flush my data, as Kin Lane recently wrote about ( However, one of the questions I have is around supporting schools in my current role as a technology coach. If they come to me and ask for help in setting up a Facebook Page, I am not sure if it is my role to say no. I prefer to help them out and use the opportunity to hopefully influence them about their choice. I know this might be about ‘believing my own rationalisations’, but I guess I have to live with that.

    1. That’s a valid concern, Aaron. I have web clients who use Facebook within the sites I build. I do as much as I can in terms of advising, helping w/o myself logging in. It’s my own line I’ve drawn (I’ve deleted accounts twice, the last time I made it new again, it was for being able to participate in a class group).

    2. Aaron
      (If you don’t mind my saying) I actually DO think it is your responsibility to say “no” to teachers setting up FB, particularly if it is some requirement for students. Have them read this post by Alan. Or just read the news. FB is not designed to be kind. It’s designed to make money off data.

      1. I respect what you are saying Kevin and included a [long list of resources]( to consider when choosing FB. My concern are those that will go off and setup Facebook whether we (or I) like it or not. What would worry me more is if a school went ahead and set up a Facebook Page that had a whole heap of consequences for student safety. Once I have addressed that side of things, it is then that I would use my social capital to sway them to rethink their various digital strategies. Maybe that makes me bad, sorry. I did say no to Whatsapp at work Kevin and that definitely did not buy me any friends.

  2. I’m sure I’m just not seeing it, but is there a way to completely reconcile this with the response to George Siemens’ tweet about Twitter?

    1. I had major disagreements with George there, I don’t give twitter that kind of power to say it influences my actions or “makes me dumb”. But I’m not saying twitter has much more moral ground (as I peek ahead to responding to D’Arcy)

  3. Twitter is just as complicit, profiting off of hate and abuse and racism and sexism and threats of violence, and selling ads and access to personal data as precision munitions to be dropped on us, unsuspecting. I don’t know if I’ll delete my twitter account. Again. For the 4th time? But by staying active on it, I’m feeding the beast.

    1. I can’t say twitter is any more a shining light of hope. Not Google. So maybe I am hypocritical, but if I start going down that line, I am going to end up leaving the internet completely.

      My own hunch is that while twitter, Google are profiting in similar ways, it just does not seem to the degree as facebook — such as the insidious cookie infiltration into other sites. Or maybe it’s the sheer amount of money they are making that signals something. Follow that money and i bet you end up in some foul corridors.

      I have no arguable position of why one and not the other, just that I have always had a nagging bad feeling about Facebook. And I have concerns when most people I know who are aware of the issues end up saying something along the lines of “I know it’s bad, but I can’t quit”.

      I could quit twitter. I could quit the G machine. None of these things should be so enmeshed that they can’t be left.

      1. Good point. It became pretty clear post-US-election that Facebook was saying one thing to advertisers “buy ads! You can influence people with our platform!”, another to users “this is all for YOU! The people!”, and another to government “pfft. Influence? We couldn’t _possibly_ have influenced anything! We’re just a little website!” And now, “oh, crap. Looks like we totally took money from Russians, gave them tools to target their ads at nazis, and likely swung many votes as a result. Oops. Who could have known?”

        Twitter is just greedy – but they still haven’t turned a profit after a decade. I don’t get it. There’s clearly something else keeping them afloat…

        You’re right, though. If we unplug from anything that is built by greedy companies, we’d be living offline in the mountains. Actually, that doesn’t sound bad…

        1. A quick look at D’Arcy’s twitter posts and you might think he is already living in the mountains…same goes for Alan. And here I am moving from Kamloops to Richmond *sigh*.

          Back on topic, though. This is a conversation that my wife and I have on a semi-regular basis. I deleted my FB account several years ago and I occasionally needle her to do the same, but she likes to keep in touch, she posts/likes/follows very little, and she (correctly) likes to point out all the time that I (hypocritically) spend on the bird site.

          My argument is the same as D’Arcy’s, that Twitter apparently sucks at monetizing my data. But that doesn’t seem like a compelling reason to keep feeding that machine. What would I do if they became better at monetizing me? Would that make a difference? I don’t know.

          Perhaps it is my straight white male privilege that insulates me from most of the crap on Twitter, or maybe it is a pretty narrow focus on following edtech and opened people, or the fact that I don’t have a whole lot of followers. But, for me, Twitter is a net benefit personally and professionally.

          At some point though, “net benefit to me” becomes a horrific rationale for propping up hate.

  4. I miss you all on Mastodon. It was there via Stephen Downes that I came to see your wonderful post, Alan. I think Twitter is going much the same way, but it is harder to be as ‘good’ at using us there. People tend to have a more random bubble of follows and followers than the direct groups on that other space. I don’t know as much as I’d like, but what the little birds whisper and what I read is enough to know it is all less benign than many excuse it to be and there is far more going on than I can imagine- and I am good at imagining.

    1. Laura, I am happy to hang out at Mastadon, but I haven’t quite found the rule sheet yet? I use Twitter for a range of things, but one in particular is to share links and stuff. My concern/question is that Mastadon does not seem to work that way? I remember reading something about spamming etc and got a little confused about the unwritten expectations of the space? Maybe it is just me ?????

      I have also started exploring Dave Winer’s Linkblog tool ( to share to Twitter. Still wondering if I can ping Mastadon ?

    2. I keep forgetting about Mastodon! As a bit of a cop out, I have somewhat of a maximum energy to put into onlone conversations; there’s a big list on my board of things I want to build and tinker with, and almost everyday, the news (via twitter) has me making gifs and remixes that almost nobody sees.

      Old timers can tell you that there was a way of connecting before there were social conversations spaces, so at some level, neither is strictly necessary.

      I’ll try to pop over a bit more.

  5. Thanks for continuing to give us all a nudge. Am walking down the road of leaving FB. And then maybe Twitter. It’s unconscionable of me not to walk my talk. Gonna try.

    1. I saw Barbara post about this in Facebook. We have otherwise lost touch and I don’t read the blogs much at all anymore. This is an exception.

      Alan has chosen to frame this as – particular providers are being irresponsible. Maybe that is right, though I am less sure about it. An alternative way to view this is that a social network supported by advertising is vulnerable, particularly the more popular social networks. If that alternative view makes any sense, it is very depressing indeed as the subscription model has failed miserably in the past, and there doesn’t seem to be some third way that would generate enough revenue for the provider but not be vulnerable to this type of manipulation.

      I will make one other point. Quite a few of my connections in Facebook are not technology people at all and would be lost if I abandoned the environment. Some volunteer work I do would be irreparably damaged this way. It makes this choice very hard indeed.

      1. Thanks for jumping out of Facebook to reply, Lanny 😉 I’m not sure we can ascribe fully who is responsible, platform providers and platform users have done this together.

        If the options and choices were easier, more people would be exercising them. I fully appreciate the challenge of maintaining connections outside of Facebook, but I refuse to believe they are irrevocably lost. If any platform becomes one that individuals believe they cannot do without, that’s a rather clear warning sign of something being wrong there. Maybe that is the reason I am more vigilant about Facebook as a problem, is that so so so many people state they could not keep in touch with people without it. I refuse to accept the impossibility of other ways. It just cannot be that essential. And if it becomes that, we have given the platform too much power.

        1. This particular project that I’m involved in now with folks in Uganda and others in the U.S. would be hard to move to a different platform.

          They are wedded the Facebook Messenger and though we can do email too, Messenger is the preferred form of communication. And the reality of this work is that we in the U.S. need to accommodate the folks in Uganda to make things possible. There have been many struggles in this project entirely unrelated to the technology. So I’d be reluctant to add to that.

          I still write my blog now and then. If you discount the bots, it gets very few readers. I repost my pieces in Facebook. Maybe they get a few more eyeballs that way. The vanity of the author – put your stuff where people might read it. I realize this is rationalization, not principle. My sense is that principle requires us to forswear the technology entirely. I’m not ready to do that.

  6. Alan and Barbara,

    It appears you are gone from Facebook.

    Good for you.

    I will be along shortly. Must first unwind the YWP page from my account.

    Makes me wonder whether I should replicate ywp code as a community site for old farts. or, at least, older farts.


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