Did I Relapse Because of a Facebook Algorithm?

withinmyself

I deactivated my FB account in 2016. FB convinced me not to delete my account by guilt-tripping me with pictures and posts from friends and family. Somehow it knew I would come crawling back.

This isn’t a big surprise considering how FB is actually a super-advanced AI with the sole purpose of manipulation in order to make money for invisible people that already have all the money in the world.

Which, by the way, if someone is willing to negatively alter a human being's life in order to make $76 Billion instead of $75 Billion, there are mental health issues to consider. Not only for the ones instigating this atrocity but for the users of FB that keep letting this happen.

We’re all in a severely abusive relationship that we can’t break free from. We justify this relationship by citing needs like convenience, connectivity, entertainment, and global reach but the version we’re getting of these things can’t possibly overshadow the tremendous costs that we are suffering.

I originally left FB because I saw it as a very real and present threat to my mental health. I was one year into recovery from my dependence on alcohol. I also quit smoking and stopped drinking caffeinated sugar-ridden beverages.

I was more self-aware than at any other time in my life. I stayed cautious about things I was consuming and I started paying more attention to my day-to-day activities. This is why I drastically reduced my Netflix screen time.

FB eluded my early attempts at self-improvement through self-awareness. Further, along my path to recovery, I started noticing something when I was on FB. It wasn’t clear to me at first but FB triggered a dormant depression that I dealt with in early recovery.

My FB activities changed quite a bit when I entered recovery. As a result, I was less likely to follow click-bate videos down endless rabbit holes. The FB algorithm would have needed to adjust my viewable content to restore my mood to one that might achieve previously reachable goals.

My recorded history of “normal” activities has suddenly been disrupted and might not recover without help. If another human was given these data points along with the tools they needed, they would probably assume the correct decision would be to intervene until the problem was fixed.

One night while scrolling through my news feed for thirty minutes, I had an aha moment that helped me finally break free from FB.

I was not enjoying anything I was doing at all. I couldn’t even remember what I was trying to do in the first place. Nothing I saw throughout thirty minutes of scrolling was interesting, funny, entertaining, or productive.

I decided to see if those things even existed on FB. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I had no reason whatsoever to continue using FB. My brain was fast and ready with rebuttals after this revelation.

  • “There are friends and family that you can only contact with FB.”
  • “FB is the only way you can promote your music and post Medium articles.”
  • “People will miss you.”

Lies. Every single one of them. My account stayed deactivated for over three years. I didn’t lose touch with friends or family members. My music and writings still found an audience. And nobody even knew I was gone.

My return to FB was far less enlightening. I logged on to find a picture. Something in messenger caught my attention. Someone saw me online in messenger and reached out with Face-time. Just like that, I forgot I didn’t use FB and I’ve been using it for the two years that followed.

Shortly after that, I relapsed after having over four years of sobriety. Eventually, I once again found the strength to start over by moving back into sober living.

I’m seven months clean at the moment. FB is an easy target to blame my addiction on in order to curtail any blame myself. But hear me out because this isn’t just about me. The Opioid epidemic could also be a direct result of FB manipulation.

If an individual is trying to enact real change in their life but the social media platform they look at nonstop is programmed to try and keep them doing things they’ve always done so an ad algorithm can target them easier to meet previously reachable metrics, how would this individual ever succeed?

In my situation, the majority of data that FB has is from years spent in active addiction because I didn’t use FB during the majority of sobriety. How is this data not being used as the primary model for my personal targeted ad algorithm?

If this is even remotely possible, it’s a big fucking deal. We’re not talking about unconsciously purchasing a different brand of potato chips or spending too much time clicking on skate videos.

This sort of manipulation could be causing serious mental health issues that are being misdiagnosed because who the fuck would think this sort of thing could possibly ever happen??

It’s far too late to point fingers though. Nobody will ever be held accountable for any of this. Because we’re all to blame. Every single one of us. We took their drugs. We took their money. We used their products. We liked their content, subscribed to their bullshit, and demanded more of it.

I hold myself accountable for my own actions and responsible for any repercussions that follow. The only solution I see moving forward is a permanent deletion of any and all personal social media accounts that engage in targeted advertising over paid content.

I beg you to do the same.

Even if you don’t think you’re being manipulated to the point of powerlessness, you can at least ask yourself one simple question. “Am I even enjoying this?”

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I’d love to hear what everyone thinks about this. Have you been considering leaving social media? Maybe it’s something you keep putting off? Or maybe you’re ahead of all of us and left that dumpster fire years ago. If you have anything you’d like to share or questions you’d like to ask, please leave a response or feel free to reach out to me privately. Thanks!!

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I write about programming, social media, addiction & recovery, and my music. My focus at the moment is to convert some of my programming articles into an eBook. I'd like to create a tutorial that focuses on having the user code like they're a Software Engineer. They'll have to look up solutions online and troubleshoot bugs by asking StackOverflow. The eBook will be a guide instead of an answer. I'm also working on a collection of essays about how Facebook's targeted ad algorithm may be effecting addicts in unpredictable ways. I've written one so far that I'll be sharing on News Break as soon as I can. Recovery from addiction is an important topic to me. After 4 years of sobriety, I relapsed during the pandemic. I'm back to 7 months clean and sober. I love to write about my experience, strength, and hope.

Springfield, MO
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