Yes, You Should Delete Facebook

How we respond to Facebook today will inform the startups of tomorrow

Nat Eliason


Credit: LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

I deleted my Facebook a few weeks ago, but it started scaring me last March.

A friend and I ran into one of his investors in a café in San Francisco, and the investor asked if we’d heard of a Soylent competitor, Ample. He was curious what we thought of it, and of meal replacement companies in general.

I hadn’t heard of Ample, but I shared my concerns with Soylent, and why I personally would never put my money into one of those companies. My friend, for the most part, agreed.

The conversation ended and we left. I didn’t think about Ample again, look it up, or talk about it online with anyone. But less than 24 hours later, there were ads for it in my Instagram feed.

It was spooky, to say the least. I was used to getting ads for products whose sites I’d visited, and for products I’d mentioned on Facebook, but products that I’d only talked about? That was weird.

After a bit of digging, I discovered I wasn’t alone. There were dozens of stories online about people getting freaked out by ads that seem like they only could have come from Facebook eavesdropping on their conversations.

Now to be clear, this probably isn’t happening. It would be a massive amount of work and data processing for marginally better ad targeting. Like the Wired article says, Facebook doesn’t need to listen to your conversations.

They can target you well enough without it.

Cause for Concern

That’s meant to be reassuring: they’re not listening to you because they don’t have to. But if anything, that should be even scarier. Facebook knows so much about you they can make you believe they’re listening to your personal conversations. They have so much data about you they can send you ads that have an uncanny relevance to what is going on in the real world.

Imagine, for a moment, that you had a friend with this level of knowledge about you. Someone who knows everywhere you go, what you like, what you fear, what you want, who you hang out with, how happy you are at any given moment.