Should EA collectively leave Facebook?

post by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-22T18:54:04.317Z · EA · GW · 10 comments

This is a question post.



Inspired by Zvi's recent post: Counterfactuals about social media (a)

His call to action:

So, what is to be done?
You, yes you, should abandon Facebook and its ilk to the extent feasible in your life. Encourage others to do the same and provide real incentives and reasons. Be willing to pay a real price for all this. See my previous articles on the subject.
But what is to be done as a society? With our collective action and enforcement mechanisms?


answer by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2019-04-22T23:39:57.483Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Short answer: No. Why would we do that?

On a personal level, I see Facebook as a useful tool that makes my life appreciably better for many different unrelated reasons, but this question asks about the EA community, so I'll stick to that side of things.

As long as Facebook exists, there will be a lot of people who use it as a primary platform for making plans and hanging out with people, and those people will be less likely to stick with EA if the community mostly disappears from Facebook. (Also, if the "mainstream" groups went down, groups like Dank EA Memes might stay up; I don't have any beef with that group, but it's not the first thing I want a search for "effective altruism" to return on Facebook.)

I've seen squabbles break out on Facebook groups, but those were rarely any worse than the most awkward in-person interactions I've seen in the community; they're also public, and involve people using their real names, which helps to keep things somewhat civil. I'm more uncertain about the EV of small, private EA message groups within Facebook, but I haven't seen evidence that they are actively harmful.

I agree with Zvi that the newsfeed is poorly designed and that some of the company's business practices aren't especially ethical, but I haven't seen any evidence that using the platform has caused any kind of collective harm to the movement, or even to many individuals in the movement.

comment by Jemma · 2019-04-23T10:27:33.570Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Currently reading Cal Newport's 'Digital Minimalism'. Even as an older millenial who has been implementing some of his practical tips for some time, I find that he explains the detrimental effects of social media (mostly focussed on harms at individual/social group level rather than societal) in an accessible yet detailed way.

In terms of practical advice, I personally am not in favour of "willpower alone" approaches (though arguably I "use" those with respect to social media I've never been drawn to, e.g. Instagram), as at this point I believe that social media is intended to be addictive, and there's no reason to forcibly expose yourself to an addictive substance. Options available include:

  • Time blockers: Blocks websites/apps during a specific time. The one called Freedom, while costing around $30 a year on a subscription basis, works very well on PC and it's not obvious to me how you'd circumvent it when the anti-deactivation features are enabled. (you probably still need to have the willpower not to Google how to circumvent it). Appblock is a workable one for Android, though very easy to circumvent if you're semi-determined.
  • Time limiters: Limit time on specific sites. Benefit is that you can still access the site (many of these also include time blocker options) but not for long. Leechblock and StayFocusd are well-known ones. Easy enough to circumvent, but can often be enough.
  • Feature blockers: Good for when you "need" to use a social media platform, but basically want it without the addictive features. Examples include Facebook News Feed Eradicator. A great phone-based option is to delete/block the Facebook app on your phone, but have Messenger and/or Local (Facebook events app). Anything to get you away from features like autoplay-next-video, suggestions/recommended content, and algorithmically-generated "feeds". Despite being trivially easy to circumvent, I have never, in over a year of using FB News Feed Obliterator, felt the slightest desire to circumvent it to view my news feed -- a fact that is startling when you consider how much time I previously spent doing something I apparently had no specific desire to do...
comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2019-04-23T17:15:52.071Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I entirely agree that "willpower alone" approaches aren't likely to work for many, or even most, people. I block my newsfeed and don't have the Facebook app on my phone. I also block dozens of other websites that I find more distracting/sticky than valuable.

I do similar things to control the amount of sourdough bread I eat; if I purchase good sourdough, I find that willpower isn't enough to stop me from eating too much of it, so I only buy it on special occasions. Like bread, Facebook is a "sometimes tool" that I'm glad to have in my life.

comment by Rampltai · 2020-10-29T09:44:43.938Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I would advise them to open their blog on Instagram


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-22T19:01:39.026Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

PSA: everyone reading this who also uses Facebook should absolutely install a newsfeed blocker.

FB Purity is excellent:

Regardless of your opinions about Facebook, using a newsfeed blocker will absolutely make your Facebook experience better.

comment by Khorton · 2019-04-22T20:12:40.188Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Why? Why would not having a thing I enjoy be better than having it?

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-22T20:41:07.299Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

In my experience, almost all the value of Facebook (like >99%) flows from Facebook groups & Facebook messenger (edit: also Facebook event invites, occasionally). Blocking the newsfeed helps me focus on the parts of Facebook that actually add value.

(More conspiratorially, the newsfeed is where Facebook deploys a lot of its mind-hacking techniques, and I really don't like the notion of having my mind / attention hacked. This is basically an aesthetic preference.)

Also, Twitter does a much better job at the "newsfeed" thing, and Twitter's feed is much easier to curate & generally less mind-hacky.

comment by Khorton · 2019-04-22T21:05:22.256Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

As a data point, I disagree with almost all of the above (agree that Facebook is mind-hacky, but don't care). Therefore I'm not planning to block my newsfeed.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-22T21:07:58.935Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Interesting. Why don't you care that Facebook is mind-hacky?

comment by Khorton · 2019-04-22T21:36:07.625Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think everything is mind-hacky. Facebook doesn't seem better at it than my primary school curriculum or social group. I know it's for corporate interests, but everyone tries to influence you for their own interests. I don't really see how this is special - I think as long as I'm benefiting and Facebook is benefiting, it's no one else's business.

comment by Khorton · 2019-04-22T18:58:55.563Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I don't understand this article because it doesn't seem to provide any arguments for 'Social media is ruining our lives

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-04-22T18:59:48.570Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think Zvi is assuming readers have already read the previous articles he links to at the top of post.

comment by Milan_Griffes · 2019-08-01T22:55:57.540Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

See also Why I Quit Social Media on Otium.

comment by · 2019-04-22T19:10:27.430Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thumbs up!

I run 3 Facebook pages but I still use now Stay Focused. Recommended!