In my essay It’s Time To Abandon Facebook I listed over half a dozen reasons why I think people should start moving away from the social network. I also acknowledged that doing so wouldn’t be easy and would have to happen gradually. After all, many people (including myself) have whole friend networks on Facebook, use it as the primary way to connect and keep in touch with folks we love, and sometimes feel like we need it in order to find other people like ourselves. Abandoning those connections is hard.
But given that it’s more than clear that Facebook’s executives don’t care about fixing the network’s many problems as long as those problems don’t interfere with the revenue stream, it’s up to users to take action.
That action doesn’t have to be Delete Your Account — not at first.
In this post, and in subsequent posts in this series, I will detail how users can start the gradual process of abandoning Facebook and maybe even feel empowered to pressure the network to make change for the better.
Step 1: Stop Giving Facebook Money
Facebook wants to show you ads. All the time. In the browser, on mobile, even in Messenger. That’s how they make money. I’m not against a company making money. Coders have to eat. What I am against is companies prioritizing making money over the needs of their users. The only way Facebook will listen to people asking for change is if they start to lose money.
Start By Blocking Ads
All major desktop browsers have extensions or add-ons that will block ads on Facebook as well as everywhere else. Just go to the websites for Firefox Add-Ons, Chrome Extensions, Safari Extensions, or Microsoft Edge Add-Ons and search for Adblock. Several will come up. I prefer Adblock Plus, myself, as the blocking scripts update frequently. The Brave browser includes ad blocking natively.
If you still see ads on the sidebar after installing and refreshing, you may want to get a specific adblocker for Facebook (search that term in the repositories linked above). This is also a good alternative if you don’t want to block ads all over the Internet, just on Facebook.
To get rid of sponsored posts in your feed, try using a Facebook customizer like FB Purity or Social Fixer. Both of those extensions have a variety of settings, one of which hides sponsored posts from your feed.
Disrupt Their Tracking
Facebook collects a ton of information about you that they then sell to other companies. There are ways to stop or minimize that. If you use the Firefox browser, there’s an extension called Facebook Container designed to do exactly this. Learn more about it here, add it to Firefox here.
Currently, the folks at Mozilla (who make Firefox) are the only browser makers that have taken a concrete step toward addressing this problem. EDIT: Several people pointed out that the Brave browser says it will block ads and tracking from jump. If you don’t use Firefox or Brave, there are other things you can do to stop or limit tracking on computers and mobile devices.
Delete the Facebook App (and Messenger, Too)
To escape Facebook ads on smartphones and tablets, stop using the app and access the site through the browser. Some mobile browsers allow extensions and/or have ad blockers built in. If yours doesn’t, or the ad blocker still lets some ads or sponsored posts through, don’t log in to m.facebook.com, log in to mbasic.facebook.com, instead. This version of Facebook is made for mobile users with much less bandwidth. It has all the same functions as the mobile site, just stripped down. No ads or sponsored posts (that I’ve seen while using, anyway).
Even better, you can still access your Facebook messages via mbasic.facebook.com. No more of the site telling you that you have to download Messenger. You only get the basic functionality — sending messages — but for many, that’s what they want. And again, you avoid the ads Facebook keeps pushing into Messenger and the other related chat apps.
Stop Buying Virtual Game Currency
This one is harder, because people do love their games! And I don’t want to be the one telling folks not to play games that give them pleasure. However, every time you spend money in a social game on Facebook, the social network gets a cut.
Consider playing that game through the developer’s website, or only on your phone, or downloading it, if any of those options are available.
But isn’t blocking ads wrong and evil? Doesn’t it make you The Worst?
No. You don’t owe Facebook, or the advertisers it works with, anything. Not even your eyeballs on their ads. Especially when you’re pulling back from Facebook in protest. An economic boycott is a legitimate and time-honored form of protest, even if you’re not announcing it to the world or coordinating it on a large scale. Individual protests have impact as well.
Not looking at ads does impact the advertisers, yes, and not just the huge ones like Ford or Starbucks. Smaller businesses and indie creatives and entrepreneurs also advertise there. I’m sorry they will be impacted, but that is part of the point. If Facebook cannot put ads in front of a ton of users and the metrics show that, advertisers will have to make different choices about where they spend their ad dollars.
And those smaller businesses and individuals who are impacted by this kind of thing? Are in this position because Facebook makes organic reach really, really hard. That’s one of the reasons the company is a huge problem. They create the need to buy advertising by suppressing organic reach and punishing those who use third-party apps to post (despite the fact that both Facebook and said apps keep trying to convince people this isn’t true).
The way to change all this? Hit them in the wallet.