Need even more reason to leave all Meta platforms for good? Here you go.

Hey, you know how Facebook (now called Meta) makes a fourtune from selling oceans of highly detailed, extremely personal data about each of its users to advertisers?

… and how that had for some time included collecting data from its unsuspecting users even when they weren’t using Facebook at the time, reporting on what else they did when and where?

… and how, when he was called on all of that privacy encroachment, Facebook co-founder, chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, ‘these days people have to accept that nothing is private any more’ (even while he bought all the property around his house so that he and his family have privacy)?

… and how Facebook bought Instagram to expand its business and reach a bigger source of data collection?

… and how it then bought WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular texting platforms, to tap into yet another torrent of data to package and sell to advertisers?

… and how studies of Facebook’s breach of trust in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, paired with wilful ignorance of the source of pro-Trump advertising (since confirmed to be coming from Russia) leading up to the 2016 U.S. election, concluded that Facebook’s actions may well have tipped the balance of voters to secure him the presidency?

… and how Facebook streams live shootings?

… and how Facebook uses algorithms and data points collected on every user serveral times per second to engineer user experience so that — since human nature tends to be that we react faster and more often to negative information than to positive information — it literally feeds you more and more content that you disagree with or angers you in order to keep you engaged?

… and how that same algorithm-based data creates echo chamber problems that can end up spreading inflammatory hate speech, that negligence of Facebook monitors may allow to continue, all of which arguably culminated in the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar?

… and how that list of snubbing laws and ethics goes on and on and on?

Well, here’s the latest: Newly published documents show that Zuckerberg directed his team to figure out a way to spy on the users of Snapchat (one of Facebook’s biggest commercial social media competitors) to help Meta gain insight into Snapchat users’ behaviour.


What the tech team came up with was buying an established VPN and perverting its purpose. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that re-routes your internet traffic through another network, away from your usual Internet Service Provider (ISP). This is done so that anyone watching your online activity, including the ISP itself, wouldn’t be able to tell where you’re going or what you’re doing.
VPNs are intended to protect the privacy of their users by obscuring what they’re doing where.
What Meta did was changed that VPN’s coding so that, instead of protecting users’ privacy from being watched, Meta itself was actively observing and recording the activity of users who were using the VPN, particularly while using Snapchat.

Unethical? Yes.
Illegal? Also yes. This is called a “man-in-the-middle attack” in cybersecurity terms, because the third-party (in this case Meta) is interjecting itself between the user and the website or service they’re connecting to, here under the guise of being a VPN that was supposed to protect that very activity.
This is the level of illegal that, if an individual did it, especially at a corporate level, that person would certainly be facing years in jail.
Unfortunately, the same U.S. legal system that treats companies as having the rights of people also seems to manage to get companies (and individuals calling the shots in those companies) out of ethical and legal wrongdoing with nothing but a warning at least and a fine at most. Which is to say, Meta, and maybe even Zuckerberg himself, will almost certainly be charged for this and fined, but even if it’s in the millions of dollars — even if it’s in the billions — that’s simply paid and moved on from, nothing more than the cost of doing business.
Facebook made $39 billion last year. The largest fine they ever paid was $5 billion a few years back, which was billions over the fine leveled by the FTC over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Why so much more than what they were charged?
Well, the added billions bought the FTC’s agreement that Zuckerberg wouldn’t be personally charged with failing to protect data privacy in that scandal.
It must be nice to head up a company with the kind of money that using some of it literally just buys one’s exemption from charges of illegal activity, for what amounts to a bit over one month of the company’s income.

Every one of the ethics ignored and laws broken in the events I opened this post with, even the ones that Zuckerberg himself was held in part accountable for, was smoothed over by simply paying a fine that didn’t directly affect the company or him or any other people accountable.

By continuing to use Facebook, you are continuing to support this kind of activity — all of the above activities and many others — by Zukerberg and his company.

Now listen: I get it. You joined Facebook to maybe check out what it even was, or maybe you heard friends or family were on it and wanted to (re-)connect with them on a platform that, in all fairness, is very slick and has a well-designed interface.
Hell, that’s why I joined. And it’s why I stayed. For, in retrospect, what must have been somewhere around two decades.

Facebook and Instagram make it easy to stay and keep using the websites. In fact, they make you want to stay and keep using them. It’s no overstatement — it’s been verified by plenty of studies and by the admission of former employees — to say that Facebook and Instagram are designed to be literally addictive. They have been made to keep you on their sites for as long as possible, to make you miss them sometimes to the point of anxiety and distraction when you aren’t using them, and to create an itch in your brain to urge you to come back to them ASAP.

So yes. You, I, and billions of others, were all drawn in and stayed there for years. And years. And years.

My final straw came after an unexpected short-term pile-on of insight into how Facebook operates: The planned addiction, the mucking around with your timelines — think you see everything posted chronologically by the people you follow? Think again — followed quickly by learning about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and then some (I’m sure nowhere near all) of the other deeply sketchy-to-fully-illegal stuff they had done.

I couldn’t keep supporting it any more. I was done.

I let people there know that I was going to Mastodon, and I let them know they could get in touch with me privately before I left Facebook if they wanted my personal email address or phone number.
Y’know, to stay in touch. In a variety of ways that weren’t Facebook.

And then I left.

Of the several hundred people I was connected with on Facebook, two — two — of my family and friends combined followed me to Mastodon. And checked it out a bit. And I haven’t seen them there since.

That’s a really, really low number. Practically negligible. And that may sound like a negative or depressing fact.
But then I realized: The people who didn’t bother following me or getting in touch after I left Facebook? The very ones who were only connected to me because I was on Facebook and didn’t want to bother following me or getting in touch outside of that website? They don’t really (deeply, genuinely) matter to me. They’re friends from public school or high school who I had lost touch with for years, who Facebook put me back in contact with. So given they hadn’t sought me out before I was on Facebook, and didn’t show any interest in connecting with me after I left, how close are those people, really?
And meanwhile, the people in my life who really matter to me are already in touch with me in various other ways.

That last part is key to you realizing that you — that almost everyone — can leave Facebook, too. Because with simply adjusting to communicate in other ways already long available to you (write, text, call, video calls and meetings…), walking away from Facebook won’t lose you contact with anyone who actually matters to you.
This isn’t to say you won’t lose touch with anyone. I lost touch with literally hundreds. But just like I did, you should maybe ask yourself: If you don’t have a personal email address for those people and/or their phone numbers after knowing them for so long… how close are you to them, really?

A quick aside: Any number of studies about human psychology confirm that it’s more negative for us to lose something we have than it is to never have gotten the thing in the first place. It should be no surprise, then, that also by its very design, Facebook recreates connections to people you used to know. Nostalgia is a real thing, and they use that to encourage you to reconnect with people you remember from your past.
But realize that Facebook relies on you not wanting to lose those connections again. You have something, and leaving Facebook means seemingly losing it. Even more, losing it again, because you already lost that connection in your past.
All of that triggers a negative response in the hardwiring of your brain, inclining you to stay there. Because again: Facebook is designed to be addictive and to keep you on its site. And it does so using addictive triggers and knowing you’ll avoid losing out by leaving.
All of which means staying there.
And the more people that stay there, the more they can charge for advertising, and the more money they make.
And the the more money they make, the more they can get away with paying for the immoral and illegal things in their ongoing search to keep getting more and more users on and hooked.

There are options other than Facebook.
Even socially conscientious ones.
You just have to choose to use them instead.

We have never before had so many options for how to get in touch with people. Even if you can’t see them in person, you can call, video-call, text, and of course, email people. Or even write them postcards or letters if you want to get really crazy. Facebook came along way after most of those options. And all of those methods still work just fine, are more personal, and don’t require you being a user on a website to do them.

Belong to a Facebook group you want to stay in touch with?
Get the email addresses of the people you want to be connected to and make an email group with them.

Is the company you work for operating mainly through Facebook?
There are other, business-focused services and ways to keep the team connected.

Buy and sell on Facebook Marketplace?
There are other options, from local thrift stores to websites that can be as broad or narrow scoped a region as you want to search. The more people who use methods other than Facebook to buy and sell goods, the more options everyone will have to buy and sell.

Do you have a business that only has a presence on Facebook?
Don’t rely on one very specific third party service to show your business to the world. If Facebook goes down (as it has), so does your visibility to potential customers as well as your ability to access your business promotion.
Instead, get your own URL — your website address — at a registration service like and then find a reliable webhost service to park the URL there and make your website. Most webhosting services are very affordable for introductory packages, and even at full pop are only a few hundred dollars a year after that. If that webhosting company goes away, I can move my site to another webhost. I pay for hosting and make $0 from it. If you have a business that earns you basically any money at all, you can — and should — own and control as much as you can of its presence on the web. And even if you make zero money from it, it’s still worth it to pay your own money to have your own corner of the internet.

Still want to scratch the social media itch?
Then find and use more ethical social media.
That means media that doesn’t have advertising. Because advertising means the platform needs you (and any data it can squeeze from you) to make money from. What practices they do to get that data gets dubious very quickly.
Mastodon, as I’ve mentioned previously, is very similar to Facebook in practice, except you see what anyone you follow posts in chronological order, it’s ad-free, and the administrators — the people who operate access points for people to get onto Mastodon — don’t collect or sell your data (because, to reiterate: It’s ad-free, so what drives Facebook to hook people in and keep them around and collect as much data as possible to then sell to anyone anywhere is all off the table here).

I’m not saying everyone can leave Facebook.
But all businesses can.
And almost certainly you can.
You just have to want to.

Oh, and here’s the kicker: Targeted advertising, which is Facebook’s bread and butter, doesn’t work any better than age-old blanketed advertising in media the way it’s been done for decades.
This isn’t my take. This is fact as verified by recent research that concludes that targeted advertising — supplying advertisers with information about who where would be most likely to buy whatever they’re selling — concluded that targeted ads, i.e., the specific kind of advertising Facebook’s invasive data mining practices facilitates, has extraordinarily little advantage in earning sales (meaning in the range of low single digits of %) over traditional advertising.
In other words, there’s next to no advantage to pay the likes of Facebook — or Google, another advertising giant — a premium to get their hyper-detailed scoop on who and where your product would be best advertised. Traditional catch-all or contextual advertising (car ads during car TV shows and events, women’s products in women’s magazines, etc.) on TV, radio or print advertising will get you almost exactly the same amount of sales.
Your business’s budget for advertising would demonstrably be essentially as effective with advertising that has been around for a hundred years rather than spending any of it on middleman companies who invade the privacy of their users in order to claim they’ll sell you info on you who you’re best off trying to sell your product to.
What approach would you rather spend your money to support?

All of which is to say…

I understand that there are outlying people in the world who literally have no other access online, and Facebook-made portals are the one and only way they can get onto the internet or in touch with others electronically. For them, turning away from Facebook would mean not being online, full stop.
But those are extreme cases.

If you’re reading this from any first-or second-world country, you almost certainly don’t need to be using Facebook.
It shouldn’t be the home of your business promotion.
Advertising there doesn’t turn notably more of a profit than traditional advertising does.
It’s nowhere near the only way to stay in touch with the people in your life who matter.
And every moment — several times per moment — that you spend on Facebook generates revenue for it; for the kind of people who don’t just think but know they can get away with all of the legal and ethical transgressions I listed at the top of this post. They know it because they get away with it every time they do it.
They’ve done it before, and they’ll do it again. And they’ll keep doing it.
Fines don’t stop them.
Laws don’t stop them.
The only way to get them to stop doing that is for enough people to leave Facebook and all of its sister platforms (Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger) that it’s no longer financially feasible for the company to keep operating the way it always has, and the way it will continue to for as long as its users… for as long as you… allow it to.

Look again at that list of ethical offenses and broken laws that Facebook and Zuckerberg himself is guilty of.
If even all of that — broken laws, privacy infringements, dissolving democratic processes, and literal genocide — isn’t enough to get you to leave Facebook, ask yourself: What would it take?