A Tech Hero Quits Facebook

Venerable tech veteran Walt Mossberg announced he’s
quitting Facebook after 12 years of socializing there. But does this news really matter?

First, I applaud Mossberg’s decision. More power to him. He’s doing what he thinks is best. And frankly, my opinion is that we should all probably quit Facebook. More on that later.

That said, I think his quitting does and doesn’t matter. Let me explain.

It Matters

It matters because of who Mossberg is. Given his particular credentials and long history in the tech industry, his quitting says a lot about Facebook as a tech product or service.

Despite the many years of trouble for Facebook with its frequent privacy scandals, Mossberg weathered all those storms and kept his account open.

Until now.

So Mossberg, who I take as a very level-headed down-to-earth guy, has said enough is enough. And if he says that’s it for him, then we should seriously rethink our own Facebook accounts.

It Doesn’t Matter

I think Mossberg’s departure matters; at least it should. But in the end, I don’t think it will have much affect on either Facebook or those who use it. In that sense, his quitting doesn’t matter.

Also, because other high-profile people have quit Facebook without really causing change, I don’t see why Mossberg’s quitting will be any different despite his admirable influence.

Quitting Is Hard

Facebook is like a drug. It’s easy to quit… I’ve done it several times. Then I go on a social bender and re-friend everyone. Right.

I see just two basic reasons why people will quit using a drug like Facebook.

One, they finally realize it’s killing them; they must quit or die. And the harm of continued use outweighs the harm of the struggle to quit.

And the other reason: you find a better drug to replace the one you’re hooked on.

I think this latter reason is the most likely way Facebook will fade away. People will find new and better social fixes.

And I think, or hope, it won’t be a “better Facebook.” I think it may not even be social media as we know it.

In a similar way that online networking evolved from the blogosphere to social media, I think there will be, or needs to be, a fundamental shift away from social media to a new paradigm.

What that might look like, I’m not sure. But I bet someone is cooking it up in a lab to capitalize on the growing social media backlash. If you build it, they will come, right? (Nevermind Google+.)