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Bob, where's your Facebook gone?!
An additional section was added to this article in October 2018 as an update on Bob's progress.
It isn't the first time I've tried to quick Facebook (in fact, this is my third attempt), but it will hopefully be the last! I've recently deactivated my Facebook account and (assuming it sticks for 3 months) will go the whole hog and delete it.
My reasons why
For a long time I've been struggling to find a useful purpose for Facebook, because most of the things I care to use social media for can usually be done more effectively elsewhere.
Sharing common interests and starting conversations with people can be done more easily on microblogging services like Mastodon where thoughts are distilled in smaller chunks and there's no social obligation on you to follow me in the first place.
I get my news from Twitter, the BBC and numerous newspaper websites, not Facebook. I reluctantly use WhatsApp for instant messaging, but I rarely use Facebook Messenger.
I don't see much use for it professionally because my work experience and connections are publicly visible for all to see on LinkedIn. Similarly, any articles I link to from Twitter & LinkedIn will receive dozens of hits while Facebook referrals are usually in the single digits, which suggests to me that those audiences are more engaged.
So... what do I actually use it for? Mostly reposting odd snippets from Twitter and commenting on other peoples' political posts. I see very little of what's going on in other peoples' lives because of the mountain of crap vying for my attention that fills up the newsfeed, so I usually catch up with people using other services or arrange to meet up. Similarly, any announcements about major life or career changes are made across services, not exclusively on Facebook.
When I weigh up how much I use the service and what I use it for against the privacy and security ramifications, I've finally reached the point where I don't think it's worthwhile to continue. Thanks to other more compelling services, I no longer feel like I'm dependent on it and want to reclaim some distraction time back from it!
"Ah, but you'll be back!"
I understand your scepticism, but it isn't unprecedented in my case. One example that springs to mind would be spotify. I decided a while ago that instead of spending a tenner a month for unlimited music with crappy audio quality I'd switch to a more limited music library with better audio quality.
I cancelled my account and starting buying high quality DRM-free FLAC files from 7Digital and created legal backup copies of my own CD audio for personal use. I rely on digital radio for audio discovery and if I want to "try before I buy" I'll check out the track on YouTube first.
Yes, there is a little work involved (I have to sync music onto my phone's SD card or stream from a cloud storage app). But six months in, I wouldn't go back to paid subscription streaming services.
You can still contact me
In most cases you can talk to me via the medium we've been using already up to this point, because the number of people who communicate with me exclusively over Facebook can be counted on one hand.
If you want to get in touch by email, simply use the contact link on the legal stuff page.
Come and join me
Can you remember what life was like before Facebook? It was a time when broadband speeds were starting to take off and the worldwide web was becoming a mainstream phenomenon as the PC appeared in more and more living rooms, bedrooms and home offices.
Despite the limited technology, this was an era of creativity. You could own your personal slice of cyberspace and make something uniquely your own. Sure, the results were a bit rough around the edges for newcomers but that wasn't the point - you were free to express yourself however you wanted and share ideas with other people doing the same thing so you could make it better.
There was also once a time when everyone made a conscious choice to visit websites that interested them and recommended links based on merit. It's great to see microblogging services popularising that idea again.
Facebook completely destroys uniqueness and personality. They build a single site, they host it, and you just type in some information they call "your" profile. Everyone's space looks the same, and they profit by sharing the information you've typed in and your surfing habits with advertisers, governments and other interested third parties. You have become their product.
People feel trapped into using Facebook regardless of how they're treated by the company because "that's where everyone is", "fear of missing out" and the mistaken belief "there are no better alternatives". Mark Zuckerberg & co know that's how it is, and they use this one-sided relationship to show you content their real customers have asked them to and use their mobile app to "notify" you so you'll remember to read, share and recommend ("like") paid-for content. They constantly bring in new messaging services, ways to notify you and online games because the longer they can keep you on their site, the more money they can make out of you.
Wouldn't it be amazing if we all stopped being products and started being creators again? Why not try taking a break from Facebook, use other services and learn how to make your own blog on Wordpress or Ghost, or even create your own website from scratch?
One year later
I'm pleased to say that I have been able to stick with it! Whenever I feel like creating a new Facebook profile I just type "reasons to join Facebook" into a search engine and read the articles about why I should leave. Aside from some dates and employers finding it a bit weird I've not had any issues, and I'm still amazed how much time it's reclaimed from my day.
Not long after I quit Facebook the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted, and the world discovered that Facebook have been criminally irresponsible with user data. They relied on a simple "honour system" when it came to third party organisations accessing data through its API, and if they broke the rules the app permissions were revoked but the data they collected was not. In addition we finally had confirmation that they buy personal data from brokers to flesh out shadow profiles.
Facebook has also been rocked with yet another security breach that affected 50 million users, and susbequently increased the account deletion grace period.
What all this means from a privacy and security perspective is that deleting your account may not mean your data is deleted from Facebook's servers as their automated systems may recreate it from data your friends upload. It could be argued therefore that the privacy benefits of leaving Facebook will continue to be fairly illusory until lawmakers finally start regulating this service.
What deleting your account does however is make the data Facebook has on you less current and less valuable. It also saves you from future data breaches that affect active accounts and gives rival services you use instead a chance to compete.