Delete Facebook? Or stay and fight? Debate rages in Utah and around the world

Chiemi Maloy has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Facebook for years — but on Monday, in the wake of the social network’s unfolding scandal involving a data-mining firm, she’s unfriending for good.

“The idea that our activities are being tracked in some sort of data bank has always been out there,” Maloy, 28, of Salt Lake City, said Wednesday. “This seems like the weaponizing of your personal preferences and personal information. … It just seemed really shady.”

Maloy, who has an administrative job in a Utah tourism bureau, is just one locally who has followed the worldwide online campaign, called #deleteFacebook, growing in response to revelations in the media that Cambridge Analytica, a political data analysis firm with links to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, breached Facebook’s data-collection rules.

The campaign got a big boost Tuesday when Brian Acton, the co-founder of the WhatsApp phone app — which Facebook bought in 2014 for $16 billion, making Acton a billionaire — tweeted the hashtag and the sentence “It is time.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted about the growing scandal Wednesday, listing changes the company is making to prevent future abuses to protect the data of its 1.2 billion worldwide users. The post hasn’t quelled calls from lawmakers that Zuckerberg testify before a congressional committee.

There is already a bit of backlash against the backlash. Some commentators, like Bruce Shapiro in a column in the progressive outlet The Nation, suggest users stay on Facebook and demand it be regulated like a utility, “subject to robust public scrutiny and accountability.”

David Golding, a historian at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, posted on Twitter Thursday that he will delete his Facebook account this weekend. In a thread, Golding decried “how often I’ve been manipulated by Facebook’s algorithms,” and how his feed “became utterly monotonous” because he avoided “the almighty Like button.”

“Facebook has built its business model around incentivizing extreme reactions and reducing real communication to binaries,” Golding wrote. “It’s clear the executives at this company have not begun to appreciate the social effects of their product. At least not seriously and ethically.”

Maloy returned to Facebook two years ago to promote her side gig, a cake-baking business. But she was turned off by the need to sell herself.

“You have to be kind of narcissistic to promote yourself,” she said. “You have to blast your contacts relentlessly.”

The social side of Facebook is also problematic, Maloy said.

“The amount your friends and family want to interact with you is always a source of conflict. Either it’s too much or too little,” she said. “My sister just had a baby, and she’s been posting her baby pictures. But I don’t want to have to interact with 50 of my family members every time I want to see a photo.”

Tom Cella, vocalist for the Salt Lake City electro-pop band Rare Facture, declared Tuesday on Twitter that he would be deleting his Facebook account Friday. The move comes “at a high cost to me as well since I use it a LOT for staying in touch with other producers and musicians all over the world.”

Recent exiles from Facebook can take comfort from those who jumped ship before them.

“Quitting was no problem at all,” said Jacob Johnsen, 38, of Bountiful. He said social media is “like this second reality you’re living in that sucks.”

Johnson joined Facebook about 10 years ago, to keep up with friends and family. “I’ve got relatives in Kansas City, and mission companions all over the country,” he said.

Over time, “it just became a drain on me, mentally,” said Johnsen, who owns a medical-services company. “It’s hard to see the parts of other people’s lives and compare them to your crappy life.”

Johnson had considered quitting for a while, but the trigger was when “one of my best friends and I were getting into these fights about Utah-BYU,” he said. Johnson quit four years ago and said he hasn’t regretted it for a minute.

Nathan Gundlach, 29, of Salt Lake City, was an early adopter, joining sometime in 2005, while he was in high school, barely a year after Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard friends launched the platform.

“I had met people at, like, summer camps who didn’t live close by,” said Gundlach, a grad student in physics at the University of Utah. “It was a way to keep in touch with them.”

Starting in 2012 and 2013, Gundlach read articles in tech publications about privacy concerns “that brought to light how much information I’m giving this website that I don’t know a whole lot about,” he said. Gundlach deleted his account in 2014.

In his post-Facebook days, Gundlach said he’s encountered a few social obstacles. “When I moved into a new apartment complex, they said there’s a Facebook for events,” he said. Gundlach said he missed out on some events at the apartment complex, but he still met his future wife there.