As Facebook sends its promised updates this week, telling users whether or not they were one of the 87 million whose personal data may have been scraped by Cambridge Analytica to create and position online political advertising, Jody Podolsky won’t even need to look. She is certain none of her information was sold because she’s sure there was no information of hers out there to sell.
Of the two kinds of people in the world — those who embrace social media and those who shun it — she is of the group that has never really used platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Of the estimated 280 million Americans over the age of 13, 213 million are on Facebook, leaving the rest to call their friends one at a time when they get a new puppy, or send postcards from vacation rather than posting photos.
And now, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress for two days about the data-mining operation, and the House Permanent Select Committee investigates whether Cambridge Analytica was working with the Kremlin, “shunners” like Podolsky are feeling vindicated.
“I wouldn’t say I’m feeling smug, it’s more complicated than that,” says Podolsky, an author, film producer and small business owner in Los Angeles. “Facebook traded on our identities, our privacy, with impunity, for their own gain. That was their business model, to sell our very selves to advertisers. I know that is genius. It’s even awesome. It’s also terrifying that it is awesome.”
The reasons non-users give for non-using are varied and nuanced. For Podolsky, it’s about the misappropriation of the concept of friendship. “I think initially what caught my aversion was Facebook’s co-option of the word ‘friend,’” she says. “I found it incrementally arrogant and intrusive to decide they could diminish the obligations and commitments of actual friendship. That’s where my personal antipathy started.”
For Rachel Bamberger, it was about the substitution of a virtual experience for a real one. “I try to find pleasure in real face time with my friends, or reading a book or listening to music,” says the high school senior. “I don’t read books online because I love the smell of real books and the feel of actually turning the pages in my hand. You lose all the sensory parts when you spend all that time staring at a screen.” READ MORE