A number of people recently have suggested that Facebook - by profiting from the social harm it causes, yet denying its culpability - is acting like the tobacco industry in the 1990s. While there undeniably are similarities between the two, I think there's a better analogy.

Facebook isn't cigarettes, it's asbestos.

Asbestos, of course, is a dangerous carcinogen that was used as insulation in buildings for many years, before its harmful health effects became widely known.

Consider how asbestos sounds an awful lot like Facebook:

• Initially promising - and it was good at its stated purpose - it turned out to have toxic effects that far outweighed the advantages.

• Immediate harm to an individual is hard to detect at first, but long-term effects are visible; and society-wide, it's terrible.

• People in poorer countries tend to be stuck with it, while wealthy industrialized nations are waking up to the danger, and ripping it out.

• And you do have to rip it out. You can't gradually peck away at the thing, since it's installed down at an infrastructural level. It's a pain to get rid of, and expensive, but it has to be done.

• Once a society is educated to its danger, it is socially unacceptable to let your loved ones - especially your kids - live with it.

Perhaps this will be a helpful metaphor as we discuss what to do about Facebook.

- - -

For more:

Subscribe to my Techtonic podcast, my weekly WFMU radio show on technology.

• See also the featured New York Times personal-tech piece this week: How to Delete Facebook and Instagram From Your Life Forever.