Essays on Technology and Culture

Why Jessica Ferris Left Facebook

Facebook should have made it impossible for someone who loves me to have unknowingly put me at such risk. Facebook should have made it impossible for me to unknowingly put myself at such risk. But that wasn’t a priority. What I was taking for granted as just the way things were was actually just the way Facebook wanted things to be.

Jessica Ferris – “I Left Facebook, And You Can Too”

With all the fuss about Facebook’s experimenting on users emotions—an experiment that’s not even an original idea.—it’s easy to lose sight of the other ways Facebook screws with us. Of course Facebook removed the ability to keep your friends list private in 2009. It did this because the more connections you make, the more data you give Facebook. The Facebook algorithms don’t care if you’re connecting with your best friend from Kindergarten, or an amoral stalker. It just cares that you connect.

I wouldn’t doubt that some engineer, product designer, or even a coffee-running intern saw the potential for abuse back in 2009. I wouldn’t doubt that someone spoke up. I also wouldn’t doubt that they were shouted down and ignored. And that is behavior that leads to Jessica Ferris being cyberstalked, and two gay University of Texas students accidentally outed to their homophobic families. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was the staring point of Mike Monteiro’s talk “How Designers Destroyed the World.”

Not everyone’s going to quit Facebook, but it might be the only thing that gets them to change.