I'm Leaving Facebook, and I'd Love to Talk With You About That

The post below is a copy of a letter I put on my Facebook newsfeed this morning. I’m also publishing it here because, as you’ll see, it relates to an upcoming episode of Soonish—one that I need your help with, whether or not you’ve ever followed me on Facebook. Read on, and please reach out to respond if the spirit moves you. As always, you can reach me at wade@soonishpodcast.org or wade.roush@gmail.com.

Dear friends,

After 12 years on Facebook, I’m fed up with the company, and I’ve made a decision to close my account. Here are some things to know:

1. TL;DR version: It's not about you. It’s about Facebook, and whether we control our own destinies as citizens in the digital age.

2. I’m not leaving right away. I want this to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end. And because I’m me—a technology journalist and podcaster!—I’ll be documenting the whole process, starting with the comments that I hope this post will provoke. (See item 7, below.) I’ll close my account once the conversation winds down, probably by January 1.

3. VERY IMPORTANT: I don’t want Facebook in my life anymore. That doesn’t mean I don’t want *you* in my life anymore. What makes leaving Facebook so difficult, of course, is that all of you are here. But there was such a thing as friendship before Facebook, and I want to stay friends with you after Facebook. I’ll be reaching out to a bunch of you directly with some ideas about how we can stay in touch. And you can always reach me directly at wade.roush@gmail.com.

4. In addition, I’ll still be active on Twitter at @wroush and @soonishpodcast, on the Web at waderoush.com and soonishpodcast.org, on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/waderoush/, and maybe in some other new ways TBA. If you’re a fan of The Daily Gryphon, don’t worry! I’ll continue to post photos of my pup on Twitter. (Of course, Twitter has its own failings. One battle at a time.)

5. My main goal in leaving is to disentangle myself from a company that, in my opinion, has fatally squandered the trust of its users and become a danger to civil society. Mounting media coverage this year has made it clear that Facebook’s leaders do not understand the scope of the problems they’ve created and have no real commitment to fixing them. If users don’t hold the company accountable for its mistakes, no one will. Here’s what Monica Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, told investigative journalist James Jacoby, producer of FRONTLINE's recent two-part Facebook exposé: “There’s all sorts of accountability. But probably the group that holds us the most accountable are the people using the service. If it’s not a safe place for them to come and communicate, they are not going to use it.” Precisely.

6. I’m not trying to persuade anyone else to leave. I do admit that there’s an absolutist streak in my personality—so, to me, closing my account feels like a satisfying response to the company’s missteps. But everyone has to decide for themselves how they feel about Facebook and arrive at their own responses. That’s fine! That’s the open market! That’s democracy! In addition to being a Facebook-leaver, I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not going to try to convince you to stop eating meat.

7. I do want to use this experience in a way that will help other people think about their own options. So I’m producing an episode of Soonish about how Facebook is failing us, what we can do about it, and—if you do decide to leave—how to extricate yourself with a minimum of fallout. Basically, I don’t buy the idea that we’re all trapped using Facebook forever—that we can’t disengage from this doomsday machine Mark Zuckerberg created. That would be a complete repudiation of the thesis of the podcast, which is that we have the ability to choose the technological future we want. So, as I gather ideas and interview tape for that episode, I’d love to talk with you. I want to hear your own thoughts and feelings about Facebook, how the developments of the last couple of years have changed your view of the service, how you’re affected when other people leave, and the like. Please reach out in the comments, or by email or Messenger. And if you’re willing to talk on tape, we can then connect by phone, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or in person.

Thank you for friending and/or following me and for all of your wonderful posts, photos, and messages over the years. You've deeply enriched my life! But that can continue elsewhere. I look forward to discussing these issues with you, here (for now) and in many other ways as time goes on.

All the best,