When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Why Digital Abstinence Won't Fix Facebook
Karin Janker

-OpEd-

MUNICH — In the aftermath of the Facebook data scandal, some users have been deleting their accounts. It's an understandable gut reaction, but it's also a declaration of surrender because it's not up to the individual to oppose the superiority of Internet companies. That's the job of the politicians.

Digital abstinence cannot be the solution, especially since many other platforms on the Internet collect data. Anyone who wants to be consistent would also have to boycott Whatsapp and Instagram, both of which belong to the Facebook group. And you'd better bury your smartphone while you're at it because two-thirds of all apps share private user data with third parties.

The consequences of the data scandal surrounding Facebook must go further than a personal boycott. They should be reflected in how politics deal with Internet companies. Only politics can lay down rules for better data protection. And critical users of these platforms are in a better position to demand such protection than digitally abstinent people. Instead of deleting your profile, it makes more sense to stay and be critical.

Every now and then you browse through this address book and get in touch with someone. Often, it doesn't go further than a few hackneyed phrases, but sometimes an interesting conversation can come about.

Facebook doesn't make life better or more beautiful, but it is one of several ways to access the world. It shows you some interesting news and is also a practical address book because it holds a reservoir of acquaintances from different phases of our lives. Every now and then you browse through this address book and get in touch with someone. Often, it doesn't go further than a few hackneyed phrases, but sometimes an interesting conversation can come about.

Of course, there's a lot of irrelevant stuff on Facebook, just like in analogue life. But that's not a reason to wave it goodbye. And the fact that you can come across comments from users with completely different political views on Facebook is actually a reason to stick with it — even if the opposition is all too clear. Finally, the digital life can also be a way to leave the filter bubble of our analog circle of friends.

When you quit Facebook, you're cutting yourself off from part of the reality of the 21st century. The platform is simply too relevant to be ignored. The latest scandal is absurdly indicative of that state of affairs: The fact that Cambridge Analytica can influence elections with the help of Facebook provides material for today's biggest social experiment. Anyone who wants to have a say in the debate about this experiment should know how Facebook works.

Above all, don't give in to the desire to keep the world constantly informed about everything you do. Restrict your own narcissism, in other words.

A reasonable reaction would, therefore, be to reflect and adapt your relationship with the platform accordingly. Don't use your real name. Use a separate email address. And block cookies that track your browsing behavior. Above all, don't give in to the desire to keep the world constantly informed about everything you do. Restrict your own narcissism, in other words. This rule applies on the Internet as well as in the analogue world.

Anyone hoping to click her way out of Facebook is wrong anyway. The deleted data remains on the servers; it" just that you don't get to see it anymore. It continues to be used and to be evaluated. And Facebook not only collects data from its users, but also from their friends and people who browse websites that have Facebook applications installed and use the white-on-blue thumb. Wherever that thumb appears, it means Facebook has deployed its nets.

As fatalistic as it sounds, you can hardly escape Facebook. The company is increasingly unlikely to care whether you still have an account there or not. It creates shadow profiles for everyone who doesn't. Facebook will only change its business model if major advertisers boycott the network in large numbers, and if politicians regulate the company better and critical users articulate their political will in that direction.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ