That said, there are plenty of other reasons you might want to quit Facebook.
First, to limit your personal data exposure. Facebook proper almost certainly collects more types of information on you than do its subsidiaries, because it’s integrated into so many facets of the wider internet. It has a far more extensive track record of granting access to that data to third parties. It attracts more advertisers than Instagram (although Instagram’s ad business is growing fast
), and Whatsapp still doesn’t have ads at all (although it will soon
). In short, the scale of Facebook’s personal data-gathering operation is much greater than that of its sibling apps. Not that you should count on it staying that way forever, but if you’re a privacy pragmatist, quitting Facebook probably gets you farther than quitting Instagram or Whatsapp. Oh, and Facebook is the one that has actually been hacked
Second, to protest its effects on democracy and the media. It’s clear now that Facebook wasn’t the only social network
exploited by Russian trolls. But even if foreign agents are building brands on YouTube and Instagram as well, Facebook served as a focal point for Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election, including groups formed to push polarizing memes and even organize real-world protests. And forget Russia for a second: Facebook’s news feed has put the entire journalism industry through a wood-chipper, chewing up credible outlets whose headlines weren’t sensational enough and spitting out fly-by-night fake news and propaganda shops. Instagram memes can be misleading or harmful, and WhatsApp groups can spread hate and fuel violence, especially outside the U.S. where the app is used for more than just messaging. But neither has upended the information economy to the same degree as Facebook itself. To put it another way: Neither was as complicit as Facebook in the horror show of an election cycle that gave us President Trump.
But here’s the most underrated reason why it might make sense for people to quit Facebook, even if they can’t bring themselves to quit the other two right now: For many, Facebook just isn’t as fun anymore. This is not universally true, of course. Some people find the perfect-looking lives depicted on Instagram more depressing than keeping up with their friends and family on Facebook. Many Americans have no use for WhatsApp at all, especially if they don’t have close friends or family abroad. That said, there plenty of others for whom Facebook has become the most dispensable of the three. It’s less intimate, less focused, and more filled with distant acquaintances, forgotten high-school classmates, and irksome uncles. And despite changes to the news feed aimed at making it more personal, there are still plenty of spammy headlines and manipulative videos to sift through.
All of which is to say: You don’t have to quit any social network. Even just spending less time on the ones that bother you most can be salutary. But if you do want to vote with your feet, #deletefacebook is not the worst place to start. And you aren’t necessarily naïve or a hypocrite if you stay on Instagram, Whatsapp, or both.
After all, the unfortunate reality is that there aren’t a lot of prominent social networks that Facebook doesn’t own.