Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

It’s time to unfriend Facebook and “the algorithm”

Why I quit Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok for good

Yesterday, I deleted my Facebook account. 1

Ditto for Instagram. And, Snapchat. And, TikTok.

It is time to unfriend “the algorithm” before it’s too late. The writing is on the wall. 2 (no pun intended)


It is time to reclaim our Attention!


“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” — Steve Jobs

Breaking up with the algorithm across Facebook, Instagram, & TikTok leads to a re-evaluation of our lives. Why this matters now, more than ever before…

Apple’s a company that doesn’t have most resources of everybody in the world.3

The way we’ve succeeded is by choosing which horses to ride.

We try to look for these technical vectors that have a future, and that are headed up, and, you know, different pieces of technology kind kinda go in cycles.

They have their springs and summers, and autumns, and then they, you know, go to the graveyard of technology.

And, so we try to pick the things that are in their springs. — Steve Jobs on Products

The beauty of great storytelling is that it’s applicable across the board. This analogy is true for Apple, true for Facebook, and true for me. Facebook, in my opinion, is in its autumn (I’m sure they might think otherwise), but more importantly, I’m in my summer.

And if you choose wisely you can save yourself an enormous amount of work. And you can put your energy to make those technologies great on your platform.”

What I do with my time in my summer (let’s hope) “if I choose wisely,” I could save myself an enormous amount of work or trouble in the long-run.

And I choose to put my energy in people, platforms and work where I see the greatest upside for my growth, and their success. To Dylan and Jobs, a huge debt of thanks, for articulating this decision, in words that I couldn’t have stated with any more clarity.


It’s easier to quit the mafia than Facebook!


Now, the beauty of any mafia, as the saying goes “once you’re in the racket, you’re in it for life.4” But that’s true for any institution; whether it’s your family or Facebook or the Catholic Church. 5

“Once you’re in the racket, you’re in it for life.” — Al Capone

But, institutions, are in most cases not built with the individual’s interest at heart, given the numerous conflicting desires and goals. And, someday, sometime, one has to do the right thing and move away, when it’s affecting your mental health. And, as you very well know, the institutions will not make it easy on you leaving.

To leave Facebook is akin to leaving the mafia you find yourself in, if you go by the many hoops they try to make you jump through to delete your profile. It’s such a cynical ploy, and an understatement on how they perceive you and your attention.

Unflappable in their relentless attempts to derail your finite attention. They make it near impossible to take what is yours and leave. But enough is enough.

I am compelled to write down my version of what I went through to simply delete my Facebook profile, since (shockingly, despite being extremely social-media savvy) it took me a few Google searches, rifling through Facebook’s own documentation, and sighing bemusedly at how folks who work there get a good night’s sleep.


Three Clicks to Delete your Facebook Profile:


Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version on how to delete your Facebook profile. I wish I had this when I was attempting to do just that. Amazing, how much leeway we give bad faith operators in power, in this world. But, I digress.

Step 1: Find your “Settings & Privacy” (Top Right Hand Corner), then “Privacy Shortcuts”

Strange, yet obscure way to hide your delete Facebook button. But, I’ll go with this flow. The word “shortcuts” also throws you off, and having “Privacy Checkup” right above, also makes you wonder which road to take.

Masterfully deceptive, egregiously stupid, and (I bet) extremely effective, at dissuading you and making you want to give up, before you even begin. But, fear not, I got you and will lead you to the promised land.

Hit “Settings & Privacy,” then “Privacy Shortcuts.”

Once you figure out “Privacy Shortcuts” is the magic door that will lead to your escape, you are confounded by this page. Now, this is the entire page on my desktop iMac and a cursory glance (will NOT show you the delete button). Go on… I’ll wait.

Also, the category to place it under “Tools to help you control your privacy and security on Facebook” is also so intentionally misleading to make you wanna throw up. Regardless, scrolling down just a second, scrolled all the way to the bottom, under a sub-heading that says “Your Facebook Information” — “View or download your Facebook information at any time.” Wow. The mind boggles at such a brazenly disingenuous ploy to throw you off.

But, if you persist, and don’t blink, you’ll see the “Delete your account and information” before it disappears.

Step 3: Download Information, “Delete Account”

If you’ve come this far, you’re that much closer to deleting your Facebook account. Now all that stands between you and peace-of-mind, is to Download your information before hitting Delete. As you can see I had 1500 photos and 2500 posts, which I chose to download (just in case), but on perusing them I realize I had stopped uploading my pics to Facebook a while back, roughly 10 years, and these photos were good to have, but I could have lived without em.

I suspect your experience may vary. Regardless, hit that Download button, before you consider permanently deleting your Facebook account.

And, just like that you’re just a click away from deleting 17 years of time spent (some fruitful), and a lot of wasteful minutes across the Mark Zuckerberg Universe (MZU).

Hit Delete, and, just like that — “Serenity Now.” I haven’t thought about it for a second since, and I doubt I ever will.


Matters of Mental Health


I’ve written about my odyssey through mental health, across grief and time, over a year ago 6. A couple of things 7 have changed since then.

A global pandemic, civil strife, rogue actors, bad faith, and Orwellian technology that knows no bounds, has no keepers and brooks no maker of it. But, people chose to react to chaos in different ways. My initial reaction, and I think for a lot of us, in the early disorienting months (Feb – May 2020) were zoom happy hours, and that goes for virtual habits, including ones inhabited by the social algorithm.

But, this abundance, this fantasy, these distractions fed by any of those sources only causes the chaos to spread. In the middle of chaos, only stillness matters.

  • Stillness matters. It surfaces meaning.
    • Abundance messes with our minds. The world doesn’t live with abundance, and scarcity is a feature, not a bug. Pain & Grief, might be the highest versions of this, and possess deep meaning to life & death. But, the only way we can confront that is in stillness.
    • What the algorithm seems to promise, is a fantasy, and it’s time we saw it for what it is.
  • Dependence isn’t good.
    • I realize how much I depend on Facebook Connect to log into sites, and increasingly on voice-activated Alexa and Portal, understanding both Facebook and Amazon now hear every word I speak. And, just like in any abusive relationship, being dependent, or co-dependent is not something one should take for granted. It’s better late than never.
  • A bad friend, is deleterious to health
    • Alcohol, cigarettes, Facebook. Or the Algorithm.
    • The algorithm is worse than alcohol. It’s worse than cigarettes. And, please don’t say we were not warned. It’s time to quit relationships that don’t serve us well.

Just the process of extricating myself from the Facebook rabbit-hole was reminder enough that this was an abusive relationship that has gone on for too long.

But, as I’d mentioned in an earlier post, unfriending Facebook has its immense benefits to mental health. More than alcohol, more than cigarettes, more than eating habits (salt & sugar), more than our physical well-being, the “algorithm” slowly, but surely wraps itself around how we process the world itself. We find ourselves staring into Medusa’s eyes, turning into stone, and the sooner we curb this enthusiasm for distraction, and fashion it after our purpose; the better.


Dylan: ’Til our error we clearly learn


As an early part of LinkedIn, a huge Twitter evangelist (from back in the day to now), social media continues to be a critical part of my daily life and work. But, there’s a difference between that naive take on social networking, with which I was schooled, to today’s attention land-grab, that has me (and many folks I know), rethink the purpose of social media itself.

Someday in the (near) future, we’ll look at this experiment in the human condition, giving kids iPhones like doing out cigarettes, and turning a blind eye to the various genocides that large behemoths have turned a blind eye to, as atrocious.

But, for starters, I wanna reclaim my attention.

For what am I, without my thoughts.

As with all things in life, I’ll let Bob Dylan bring it home 8, spittin’ words of wisdom on technology, our abuse of it, and what it all means.

Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool
And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled
Oh, man is opposed to fair play
He wants it all and he wants it his way

Now he's hell-bent for destruction, he's afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
And all he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies

Leave no stone unturned
May be an actor in a plot
That might be all that you got
'Til your error you clearly learn

I, for one, am in no mood to make the choice to repeat my mistakes, spending time blithely whether it’s on vices we entrust with a lot of good faith — whether it’s Instagram or alcohol. So, goodbye and good luck to Mark, his minions, and my next glass of scotch.

Good Night, and Good Luck!


  1. 17 years in, though a phantom-limb phenomenon at this time, it’s a fully-grown teenager if I had a child at that point in my life, and it’s strange that it has accompanies a lot of my wins and successes in these years past. Still, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Fin. ↩︎
  2. Who doesn’t remember Facebook’s original “wall” posts, before “the feed” took over. Here’s a great piece by Taylor Lorenz, currently at The New York Times, on the day the wall died. “Sahil Kapur, a journalist in Washington, D.C., echoed Zoe’s sentiment: “Posting on someone’s Wall is more about public consumption than a real conversation. The wall did have a certain appeal when Facebook was a tighter-knit community of college students, but that changed.” ↩︎
  3. Coming from a company at its peak at the D8 Conference in 2010, when they had just surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable company in the world, might seem specious. But, Steve is right about one thing, no company has unlimited resources. No human, has unlimited attention. And, focus, is imperative for any and every goal one has in life. ↩︎
  4. Yep, that was Al Capone who said it. ↩︎
  5. As a recovering Catholic, I understand the role dogma plays in the vice-like grip that religions have on your “soul,” and hence your actions, your inability to make choices as you might freely. ↩︎
  6. Losing a parent, for the first time, will be the hardest thing you ever deal with in your life. The ground beneath your feet, and mind, shifts irrevocably. Now, toss in a breakup, work turbulence and you have a perfect storm. I did, and this was before the pandemic. Meditation, running and staying fit — mentally and physically — saved my ass and my life, arguably ↩︎
  7. Finding passion in career and a partner unlike any, is a start, and boy, did 2021 make up for 2020’s absolute decimation ↩︎
  8. Dylan’s “License to Kill” is a diatribe against technology’s wayward eye when we have major problems right here on planet earth. How resonant today, when there’s a debate about billionaire’s pet projects to Mars and the Moon, when we are faced with climate change, a pandemic and political unrest. ↩︎

Filed under: Facebook, Facebook, HOW-TO Use Social Media, Mark Zuckerberg, Mental Health, Productivity, Productivity Tools, Public Relations, Social Media Tools, TikTok, , , ,

Time has come to change how we read

Google Reader is dead. Long live reading.

If you are from the real world and happened upon posts from any-and-every tech blog, you wouldn’t be mistaken in assuming that today marks the demise of the written word, now that Google’s offed Google Reader.

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Image Source: Business Week

But as Joe Coscarelli of New York Magazine, notes, most people don’t know Google Reader from Google Currents, less so care about its disappearance:

As a blogger this might be blasphemy, but the online echo chamber when beloved products, however esoteric, change or shut down is out of control. Worse, it might convince us, through repetition, that these things matter. Regardless of what your social media circles might indicate, the universe will not mourn Reader because the amount of people whose job (or even hobby) it is to consume and process news is actually minuscule. Thankfully.

As a matter of fact, in their rush to tease out the minutiae, I fear we have missed the big picture. There is a fundamental disruption happening in how news is consumed.

Many apps (Digg, Aol, Feedly) are scrambling to jump on the RSS bandwagon by touting their next Google Reader but fact is we are already seeing attempts at more efficient ways to consume news.

And RSS is only part of that story.

What’s the New TiVo of News?

Matt Buchanan of The New Yorker, writes of the problem that ailed Google Reader:

But a feed reader still represents a fundamentally different vision of gathering information than the social model that has gripped the Web. It is largely a single-user enterprise—a digital monk diligently scanning feeds. And it is intensely focussed on the Web sites most important to the user, rather than the omnivorous grazing that characterizes scanning news on social media, as links are surfaced by the people the user follows.

Fact is most of the sites I recommend below have moved away from the RSS-only model while curating social content, in many cases with a lil help from an expert – a trait most successfully used by Gabe Rivera and his trinity of popular news aggregation insider sites Techmeme (Technology), Memeorandum (Politics), and Wesmirch (Celebrity).

As Matt says:

Everybody consumes the Web differently, so it’s hard to imagine a single reading service that works for every person. But it seems reasonable to think that one combining a person’s deep and abiding interests with the serendipity of social media could work for most.

But the future for news readers is brighter than ever and here’s not one, not two, but five different reasons why:

1. Flipboard

The one news app I cannot live without today would have to be – without doubt – my Flipboard.

Flipboard pulls together the disparate threads of news that course through our ubiquitous social media world and makes gorgeous sense of it. Everything from your LinkedIn to Facebook updates, YouTube to Instagram (even SoundCloud), and most importantly, your Twitter followings are displayed in an elegant magazine like format. It’s the kind of design one normally expects from Apple, and Flipboard’s attention-to-detail here is impressive (Follow their designer, @craigmod).

The important distinction to make here is that Flipboard is primarily a consumption device. Though it provides you options to tweet or update your status on any of your social accounts, the beauty of Flipboard is its visual clarity and the ability to on-board you with great news right away.

2. Feedly

For those hard-core Google Reader users who fret-and-fumed since the announcement-to-shutter was made, Feedly has been a god-send. Not only has Feedly invested the most in making this a smooth transition for users, they have also made the most gains among the same user base (up to 3 million users now). In addition, they now support lost RSS reader tools (like @reeder and @newsify) stay alive.

From a user perspective, what feedly has done is provide a quick replacement for Google Reader with a blazing fast cloud service, which you can find at Feedly Cloud. What’s most shocking to me in this whole scenario is why Google didn’t transition those influential Google Reader users to Google Currents – their Flipboard wannabe – the same way Flipboard did!

What Feedly does with its aggressive push into the Google Reader space remains to be seen, but I’d watch out for what they have up their sleeve next.

3. Newsify

All great news consumption apps start on mobile. Flipboard set the standard and, believe it or not, Newsify and Reeder are two similar apps with similar credentials.

RSS subscriptions, unlike the real-time ephemeral nature of social, add up pretty fast in an inbox and what you found is that you had to declare news bankruptcy pretty soon, deleting days worth of RSS content.

What you need is a pictorial, almost Pinterest-like, visualization that allows you to skim through hundreds of posts while picking out the ones that seem most interesting. If it’s 4.5 star app rating is any indication, Newsify seems to have nailed that experience for the iPhone and the iPad.

4. The Modern Op-ed: Quora and Medium

What Huffington Post successfully started, Quora and Medium have tried to emulate. The goal: to find and amplify excellent sources of authoritative analysis, with topics ranging from breaking news to expertise across varying categories.

While Quora is focused on news-via-experience, Medium seems to have perfected the art of the modern op-ed, democratized it while still maintaining its quality.

But what all these sites do is take the traditional news model and flip it on its head by finding commenters, whose comments are the starting point to creating worthwhile reading, and giving these individuals a platform to write and a community to pontificate.

5. Social News: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Finally, the elephant in the room. Social.

Let’s not forget that all of the above innovation rests on social.

What would Flipboard do without Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn feeds. Would their pages be as interesting or even exist?

Most of what I follow on Flipboard are Twitter lists I’ve created. Most of what most people follow on Flipboard are also built around links shared on social sites. With LinkedIn already showing how a successful social news product should be built around relevance and Facebook clearly showing its cards with what could potentially be a social news engine, we can see the direction that social news is gonna take in the coming years. And it’s gonna be a game changer.

So let me leave you with a question:

How do you get your news today? Is it on Yahoo News or Flipboard or Twitter? Do you read news primarily on your phone as you are boarding the train or on your desktop once you get to work or with a New York Times subscription while you drink coffee in the morning.

Leave me a comment.

Filed under: Curation, Facebook, Journalism, Medium, Quora, Social Media Tools, Tumblr, What's New in Social Media

The magic left the building with Jobs

I remember the moment Steve Jobs scrolled through his music and uttered those magical words – “scrolls like butter” – while illustrating the beauty of the original iPhone.

stevejobs1

It’s moments like this that you lived for, as a technology obsessed professional in Silicon Valley. And with Jobs we got to watch the Michael Jordan of technology, courtside, at his best. iPods, iPhones, iPads, the hits kept coming and Jobs made them look great.

So, it’s a pet peeve of mine these days when companies try to rip off Steve Jobs’ launch style. Not Apple’s style because the new PR machinery at Apple leaves a lot to be desired. But what Jobs created, no one else can put together, because it was and will always be classic Jobs.

Jobs in the above video is the same age as Zuckerberg is today. Incomparable!

Why “Public Relations” sucks?

Kevin Roose writes of the Applefication of Facebook PR in light of today’s Facebook press conference.

I’m sitting in the Facebook headquarters, in Menlo Park, in a room filled with the symphonic clicking of keys produced by hundreds of tech bloggers, all writing the same stories and updating the same live-blogs on identical Apple laptops.

Go on…

Zuckerberg has long departed — he was disappeared from a teeming pile of reporters and cameras and out a back door like a sitting president — so now it’s just us and the PR Borg. Oh, the PR Borg. Facebook’s communications staffers are paired up with reporters at demo stations, showing off Graph on a series of computers. The spares are milling around the room. There must be 50 of them — a phalanx of fresh-faced professionals with smiles on their faces and carefully scripted responses to our questions in their hip pockets.

These are today’s news factories. These are things I’d hoped would change with social media but frankly the hand that runs the machine continues to operate with an old playbook. And that sucks…

But wasn’t social media meant to change these things… Hold that thought.

Because no company can ever be Apple with Jobs 

I never went to an Apple event in the Steve Jobs era, but I gather that the pitch is nearly identical: the charismatic founder, the well-paced presentation, the subtle way that certain media outlets are subtly given preference. (This time, major news outlets — this one not included — were given off-the-record briefings about Social Graph.) It’s all drawn from a playbook that was developed a decade ago and has been used to transform a smallish computer company into the largest corporation in the world.

Not so fast. This playbook copied by every large company from Amazon to Facebook forgets three key elements for this communication to work: killer product, charismatic founder, real user values.

The magic with Steve Jobs was his effortless communication. A passionate user himself whose demos communicated his wonder around Apple products that truly changed the way we interact with technology.

Yes, Apple had their PR machinery but the difference was Jobs.

  • The difference was in backing up those missives by publicly sparring, evangelizing and winning over developers or journalists when they called him on it.
  • The difference was a holistic approach at communicating openly to users by treating them as adults.

Wasn’t that the utopian goal of social media? To help companies talk one-on-one with their users. Instead here we are, still mass producing press releases around giant product announcements, trying to reach the lowest common denominator at the lowest possible price. In some cases, at the ridiculously low price of $100.00!

Welcome to the future of social media communication.

[Disclosure: I own public stock in Facebook, I do not own stock in Apple. This blog holds my my personal thoughts on all things marketing and communications since 2006.]

Filed under: Best-of, Facebook, Public Relations, Social PR, , , ,