At the end of October, I deactivated my Facebook account. I haven’t deleted it completely yet, but if I don’t miss it (and I assume I won’t), it’ll be gone for good by the end of the year. It’s been a long time coming.
There have been a lot of things that have troubled me about the platform over the years, but my recent experiences with it as a Black activist have given me even more food for thought.
I’ve seen for myself how Facebook amplifies extreme voices (mostly, it seems, from the right), and how it suppresses those advocating for anti-racism and equity. I experienced this once I started posting about racism and anti-racism. One article in particular, talking about the experience of being the only Black employee in an organization, seemed to rile someone up. In banning that article, Facebook also removed other articles which they hadn’t had a problem with before. So, as the Brits say, their card had been marked since then.
Over the last 18 months, I’ve also seen visibility fall for posts dealing with anti-racism. Share a photo of a family member or a mini-rant about the failings of the local utilities company, and hundreds of people see the post. Talk about how Black people are being silenced or killed, and the numbers are in the dozens, or even single digits. I’m happy that some Black activists with large followings continue to get visibility on Facebook, but if I’m basically talking to myself, is there any point being there?
So I’ve been weaning myself off the platform for a while now. I’d decided some time back that Facebook wasn’t getting any more of my money. I had an ad account which I used to help promote a local organization, but since their flagship event is on pause due to Covid, there’s no need to keep it, and they’ll no doubt find another solution when or if it resumes. I stopped posting regularly on my Facebook page about a year ago. I stopped posting regularly on my personal profile about six months ago.
But somehow, when the company decided it wanted to build the metaverse, I got a pre-apocalyptic premonition. Facebook says it doesn’t want to own it, but it’s a corporation, after all, and I have no trust in Zuckerberg’s ultimate motives.
For me, the whole idea takes Facebook’s creepiness to a new level, and since we already know that their algorithms have trouble with blackness, it seemed a good time to make my exit. After all, why should Facebook’s virtual reality metaverse be any kinder or more welcoming to Black creators than their current site is now? I just can’t see it, and I don’t see why I should spend any more time there.
Of course, I know that to be completely consistent I should also leave Instagram and WhatsApp, but that’s not happening yet. Instagram is in the firing line, for sure, especially as that platform has the same content suppression issue, but WhatsApp is integral to the running of many local services so it’ll have to stay until those services get the message and switch to Telegram or Signal. That’s likely to be a slow process, if it happens at all.
So, the question remains, where’s a Black person who wants to talk about anti-racism to go? My last article mentioned some of the problems with LinkedIn, and no platform is totally exempt from toxicity and content suppression. The solution, clearly, is for Black people to create our own spaces, and invite in people who are serious about dismantling white supremacy.
One person who’s done that is Padraic McFreen, the founder of Linked Inclusion. I know I keep mentioning it, but Linked Inclusion is like a breath of fresh air. It’s envisaged as a safe space where those interested in issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and wellness can hang out. And Padraic has a great vision for how we can all work together to make the world better for everyone. I hope to interview him soon so we can learn more about it.
Activist and anti-racist friends, what new spaces have you created or discovered? Let me know below. And in the meantime, I WON’T see you on Facebook. :)
Thanks for reading,
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.
Thanks for reading,