Internet | October 9, 2021 10:11 am

Man Creates Tool for Facebook Addiction, Gets Banned for Life

The browser extension allowed users to wipe their News Feeds clean in one fell swoop

Man Creates Tool for Facebook Addiction, Gets Banned for Life
Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

I stopped using Facebook regularly a long time ago. It wasn’t even in protest over the social media giant’s numerous scandals or general evilness, I simply lost interest in it. When I occasionally checked in on what my Facebook friends were up to a few years later I genuinely couldn’t. The app’s interface was completely different, which for a social media app is to be expected. The problem was that my friend’s posts were buried in an avalanche of posts from random and dumb groups and pages I had liked over a decade ago … and there were a lot of them. Unfollowing them all individually was a pain in the ass and I eventually gave up and went back to ignoring the app. If only there was a tool that could clean up my cluttered News Feed in one quick swipe, then maybe I could start anew and continue to use the terrible website.

Louis Barclay must’ve had a similar thought, because the developer created a browser extension called “Unfollow Everything” that allowed users to wipe their News Feeds clean, unfollowing friends, pages and groups all at once. The extension didn’t unfriend or unlike your connections and pages, they just wouldn’t appear on your News Feed.

“This leaves you free to use Facebook without the feed, or to more actively curate it by refollowing only those friends and groups whose posts you really want to see,” Barclay explained in a recent article for Slate. Turns out Barclay didn’t create the tool because he liked a million stupid Facebook pages as a child, but because he wanted to take control of his Facebook addiction:

I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was near-miraculous. I had lost nothing, since I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going to them directly. But I had gained a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically. Overnight, my Facebook addiction became manageable.

Unfollow Everything took off and people loved it, Barclay said, noting other users had said the extension successfully curbed their Facebook addiction as well.

Turns out Facebook wasn’t too happy some users were no longer addicted to its website, though, because they banned Barclay from the social networking platform for eternity.

Earlier this year, Facebook sent Barclay a cease-and-desist letter demanding he take the tool down and informed him his Facebook account had been permanently disabled:

It also told me that it had permanently disabled my Facebook account—an account that I’d had for more than 15 years, and that was my primary way of staying in touch with family and friends around the world. Pointing to a provision in its terms of service that purports to bind even former users of Facebook, Facebook also demanded that I never again create a tool that interacts with Facebook or its many other services in any way.

Barclay’s tell-all comes at a particularly inopportune time for Facebook, which is currently dealing with the fallout from a recent Wall Street Journal exposé that detailed how the social media company is fully aware of how Instagram negatively impacts young users’ mental health. And while, as The Verge notes, Barclay’s tool did violate Facebook’s terms of service, this incident is another clear-cut example of how Facebook handles its user base.

“The company is happy to let users unfollow people individually, but automating the process would make it too easy to opt out of the News Feed, which is essential for keeping users coming back and lining Facebook’s pockets with advertising revenue,” added The Verge.

It’s a real shame Facebook doesn’t care about the desires of its user base, because I really could’ve benefited from Unfollow Everything. It’s also a shame that Facebook unapologetically exploits its users health and safety in exchange for ad revenue.