Every few weeks, some tech company is in the fire over changes to their rules. This week it’s Instagram, but who knows who it’ll be next week. They put out some change to their terms of service that claims new or changed rights over what they can do, someone notices, bloggers and headline-hungry tech reporters find it, and suddenly we have us a news cycle. In 2012, the truth is not the actual truth, but that which is tweetable. People circulate headlines speculating on what the new terms mean, a few rounds of telephone go by at the speed of light, and pretty soon the company in question is the most evil entity on earth for the next two or three days.
This nuclear chain reaction cascades, and eventually people get mad; so mad, they decide to pull off a move that could never have existed in the pre-Internet era: the ragequit. A ragequit consists of three parts – backing up your account data (usually), deleting your account, and then talking very loudly about it on social media. Usually this decision is made within hours of the change going
viral public. Its intent is to send a message that says that these changes are not OK, and if you’re going to make them, I’ll just take my ball and go home, so you should fix them.
In a way, the ragequit is fascinating to observe in human nature. In just a few hours, someone can go from ignorance to apathy to fear to anger, and let this rush of emotions dictate a permanent decision. We’ve now moved to a point where software is so disposable that we will spend months and years putting our life into it and throw it away at the first sign of perceived injustice against ourselves. It’s equally curious how people think a few scattered deleted accounts will end up persuading the company to see the error in their ways, as opposed to all the monstrous bad press being simultaneously thrown at them.
One of the most infamous incidents of the ragequit happened in 2010 when Facebook announced a number of changes to their privacy options and policies. As with all things Facebook and privacy (hence Instagram and privacy), people got mad and deleted their accounts en masse. Did it work? Well, no. Facebook didn’t even bother to dignify the effort with a response. They likely picked up more new users that day than they lost from ragequitters. That was two and a half years ago, and it’s not like Facebook’s privacy controls have gotten any better. The whole thing was a futile effort that made some people feel good, and effected no change.
Nobody has ever been called noble or admirable for knee-jerk removing part of their online presence. Those who do it are never celebrated for it beyond the moment, and many times end up crawling back, tail between the legs, and resuming their use of the service. So remember, if you’re thinking of pulling off the ragequit, it probably won’t do anything but make you feel better in the moment. The company might end up backpedaling, the story ends, and suddenly you’re looking for a new photo-sharing app.
And yes, I am entirely guilty of the ragequit in the past.