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What 5 Years of Voluntary Facebook Exile Taught Me

Updated: 6 September, 2023 Created: 5 August, 2023 By:Andrzej Category: Blog

I have to warn you – this is not a success story like in those inspirational posts. Quite the contrary, it is a history of failure and futile sacrifice.

I learned a thing or two, even thought learning them was not worth all the hassle.

I have always had strong views regarding privacy. I am not a great fan of corporations like Facebook, Google etc.

I don’t think that this permanent surveillance model they promote will turn out to be good for us.

I understand that if you are 20 years old now, you probably cannot really get what my problem is. You grew up with these things, you know no different.

I simply cannot imagine a scenario, where vast knowledge about our every word, every choice and every step coupled with AI could mean something good for us.

Knowing our past inside out means enormous power to predict and influence our future choices. Knowing our secrets, health problems, fears – this means even more power.

I cannot imagine how this power could be used for my good. And I can easily imagine, how this power will be abused.

So I was willing to go an extra mile and inconvenience myself in order to reduce my exposure to what I believed is wrong.

I paid the price and achieved nothing

Over five years ago, on the day when GDPR – European privacy law – came into effect I closed my Facebook account.

I thought that times of my public activity as a music promoter are gone. Some personal issues also played a role.

I deleted my Facebook account, and guess what happened: I ceased to exist socially.

What did I achieve? Nothing. I have nothing to show for all these years of me going Amish.

I just sacrificed my social life and suffered loneliness – in vein. I distanced myself from people I cared about. I got nothing in return but a sense of standing on the moral high ground.

I say that with a lot of sarcasm, of course. I did hurt myself, not “them”.

So now I am back, tail between my legs, trying to be a good boy so Facebook does not ban my newly created account.

I gave them one of my real phone numbers (had to give them a number some real people have in their phones), a real photo of myself. I have a separate computer that is not connected to a VPN when I use Facebook.

I voluntarily let this data vampire to bite me.

These companies who effectively monopolised certain important parts of our lives always say we have a choice. We can click no during installation, we are not forced to use their products.

Can you click no on your social life, on your friends? Is Facebook a choice then?

Nowadays you cannot conduct normal life without it. Certainly you cannot conduct any kind of musical or artistic activity.

The younger you are, the more indispensable this stuff becomes.

But why in order to keep in touch with friends do I need to surrender my privacy to some company?

Does this convenience have to come at such an enormous cost? Is it the best this world and technology has to offer? An always-watching Big Brother over my shoulder?

Do I need to – in order to see what my friends are up to – wade through tons of some idiotic content and ads created by some marketers trying to sell me something or make me do something, think something?

Do I have to suffer the sight of politicians spending my own money to get in front of my eyeballs, peddling their poison, trying to play my emotions?

Those fighting the system are in fact it’s slaves

Do I really have to support corporations when I want to support an underground and independent band?

The ironic thing is, that independent musicians – those seemingly opposing “the system” – are completely dependent on all this stuff.

The “system” owns them more than anybody else. Those singing about corporations being evil cannot exist without them.

Big pop stars will survive no problem if Facebook, Bandcamp or Spotify cuts them off. Independent musicians will simply disappear.

Independent musicians are completely at the mercy of Facebook. I realised this years ago and started building a mailing list – an old post about it here, even more relevant today than back then.

If Facebook takes away your band’s page, you are gone. This is how much you depend on them as an “independent” artist. This is how much they own you, your band and your fans.

In this post Side-Line Music exposes some weird Facebook’s attempts to monetize their fan page. They can do this, and more. Remember: they own your fanpage.

It is them or oblivion – so you will have to put up with whatever scheme they come up with. There is no escaping these tentacles, not for those at the bottom.

And if we cannot escape, then we should learn to live with it.

This is what I did not understand when I was deleting my own account. But I had to do it, suffer the consequences, learn it the hard way.

Well now at least you can read this and spare yourself the hassle.

The fallacy of choice

I had to prove to myself that there is no choice, that the “no” button is not a real option. That it is there not as a real choice, but to create an illusion of choice.

Today I know that this “no” button is just the first of many lies. It exists so you think that you have made a choice. In fact, there was no choice.

They ask for your consent, so it is you who bears the burden of responsibility. What kind of meaningful negotiations can you have with a multi-billion enterprise? There is no negotiations. You do what they want or you have no social life.

This is the deal they are offering you. You agreed – so everything is fine. Now you have only yourself to blame for what they will do with your privacy, data and life.

Depriving someone of social interactions is used as a punishment in prison. To punish more those already being punished. This is how hard they can and do push you to press this “I agree” button.

I did press the “no” button, suffered the consequences and learned a lesson.

And the lesson is that we have no choice but to live with all these corporations who grabbed and effectively own our social relationships.

This is the reality.

No surrender

We have to live with them, but we do not have to surrender to them.

Just treat all these Facebooks and Googles like some kind of occupying force.

Because in reality this is exactly what they are: a force occupying and feeding off our private lives, our friendships, our relations and connections.

They are data and privacy vampires. They gather more information that the worst totalitarian countries ever did or currently do – China included.

They make Orwellian Big Brother look more like Good Uncle.

They took our privacy without asking, set the rules and appointed themselves as owners of our data. As those with unlimited permission to look into every detail of our lives and use this knowledge for profit.

And if we say no to them, then we pay with our entire social life.

They take our private lives, stick ads in between our words and say that everything is fine. It is not fine, it is far from being fine.

If you try to fight them directly you will only just hurt yourself. But you can always resist.

You not only can, you should.

How to resist?

Here is what will hurt them most with no negative impact on your experience: do use an ad blocker. Here you have a whole post about why ad blocking is so important.

Also use Firefox browser with Facebook containter extension.

Firefox allows adblock types that Chrome does not, as they block google ads too. This is why you should use Firefox, not Chrome.

You have to remember that Chrome is owned by Google and will never allow anything that goes against Google’s goals.

And Google’s possible goals is not to protect your privacy, but to have exclusive access to it.

So: switch to Firefox and use an adblock.

These things are extremely disruptive for the surveillance model with almost no cost to you.

Ad blocking hurts the surveillance business the most, because their vast knowledge about you is worth nothing if they cannot display you ads, if they cannot put their message in front of you.

And this is exactly what an adblock does. Makes them unable to influence you, despite all their power and knowledge about you. It makes them unable to exercise their power.

This is why they do whatever they can to make you use their app. With the app, they not only gain access to everything you have on the phone and your location but most of all – they are in full control of what you see.

They can serve you ads in a way that is impossible to block. This is exactly the reason you should not use Facebook app on your phone – if you can.

Nowadays so many people use an adblocker (some sources say over 40% of users), that going hard after them is a risky option. Facebook needs you on their platform, because you and everybody else being there makes it so indispensable.

So even if they cannot show you ads, you are still valuable. You create an incentive for others to being on Facebook – by interacting, providing content, discussing, liking etc.

The landscape is shifting, changes are possible

We are living in times when hegemony of Facebook and Google can be challenged, when better deal for the users can be achieved.

Twitter (aka X) is changing. They start recognising content creators and want to pay them a share of ad revenue. So there will be competition for those creator-users between platforms – a good thing.

Free version of ChatGPT – still in its infancy – already beats Google in many ways. For example in solving programming related problems. It is such a relief not to have to dig through Stack Overflow to find answers.

So the times are good for resistance.

What to do with adblock beggars

What if some website ask you to disable adblock, like they often do?

Just show them your middle finger and go somewhere else. This way you teach them a lesson, not the other way around.

This is them who has to switch to a privacy oriented model or be gone. Don’t worry, real creators will find a way, they always do. It is not on you to support legacy models by sacrificing your privacy.

Don’t give in, go somewhere else.

You may not be able to live without Facebook, but you can easily live without some random websites trying to force you to do what they want.

They do not have Facebook’s power, tell them to go f themselves.

Quick mobile phone privacy tips

Have a disposable phone number on a device that does not contain your contacts or any other private information. Use it for particularily bad apps, signups, verification etc. Keep your real contacts and photos out of reach of the corpos on another device.

I call this solution a “dirty phone”.

Don’t use Facebook app on your phone. Use Signal instead of Whatsapp. Replace Gmail with more private solution.

If you are tech savvy use LineageOS without Google Apps if you cannot afford an Iphone (I can’t but I believe iPhone is slightly better for privacy – Apple obviously gathers your data, but Google knows too much already. So you diversify.)

For those who want to use popular apps MicroG coupled with LineageOS may be a solution. Motorola phones are a particularily good choice if you want functional privacy on a tight budget.

And last, but not least – if you are really ready to jump into it, give Ubuntu Touch a chance. I used this system on my main phone for a good while. It was usable a couple of years ago, I believe it could get only better now.

If you care about privacy, please donate to the foundation behind Ubuntu Touch. One day this system may change our corporation-ridden mobile phone landscape too. We have no better hope than those guys when it comes to privacy on the phone.

Parting thoughts

Whatever you do, please do not volunteer private information. Don’t fill profiles, workplaces, previous employers, addresses.

Do not discuss private or important matters on non-secure corporation-owned communication channels.

Try to be with people in person, not online.

Do just one or a couple of the above, and you’ll be much better off when the shit hits the fan.

And hit the fan it will my friend, you can bet on that.

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