On Sunday, at about 10:30pm Eastern, I deleted my Facebook account.
It wasn’t completely out of the blue, I made a post on my Facebook timeline early Sunday morning alerting all my friends, followers, and random internet acquaintances that I’d be deleting the account. I said that it wouldn’t be difficult to keep in touch with me either by following me on Twitter, following or subscribing to my blog, or sending me a text message. The first two options can even be as passive as Facebook is.
For me, the decision was a relatively easy one: I never use Facebook. At most I was signing in once or twice a month after being prompted to do so by someone during a real-life, face-to-face interaction, the irony of which never escaped mention. But what finally encouraged me to squeeze the trigger was a very interesting article I read that morning as I was fighting the endless battle with Sunday morning bed gravity. It outlined just how insidious Facebook has become and how far into the web its tendrils and tracking software have burrowed.
As I write this, WordPress is screaming at me that it’s lost the connection with my Facebook account and is prompting me to update its settings. But, honestly, other than that, excising Facebook from my life has been really, really easy. (You’ll notice that there is no longer a Facebook ‘Like’ button on my blog.) Now I recognize that this is in part because, as I just said, I hardly ever used the platform. For a long time, though, what kept me from taking this very action was the thought that it would be difficult to do because Facebook has become so prevalent. Think about it, Facebook is everywhere. It’s even weaseled its way into the operating systems of most popular mobile devices—not just as an application, it’s actually a PART of the OS.
I’m not going to detail all the oggity-boogity stuff from the article I mentioned, but I will leave you the link, right here, so you can read it yourself. It’s not so much about the ownership of your photos and information that you upload anymore, it’s the inescapable tracking and shadow profile building that the company has turned to as its primary source of revenue. In the modern surveillance state it’s a joke to think that you can be anonymous anymore without putting serious effort into it, but we shouldn’t be so complacently offering ourselves up to the machine. And don’t think you’re safe from Facebook’s stalking behaviour just because you’ve ticked the Do Not Track box in your browser’s settings, Facebook doesn’t honour that notice.
In that vein, along side the link to the aforementioned article, I’m going to suggest a few addons for your browsing experience. Number one is Ghostery, I’ve been using this Chrome extension for years now and I absolutely love it—just be aware that if you have GhostRank enabled, it will collect some information about what trackers try to connect at which sites and report that information back to Ghostery. Alternative to Ghostery, I’d recommend the EFF’s Privacy Badger. I also recommend AdBlock and Disconnect.me, these, on top of Ghostery, virtually eradicate all the tracking connections that websites throw at you. Sure, some still slip buy, but just watch the applet buttons index numbers as your pages load. It’s not uncommon to see them, all three, blocking upwards of 1000 connection requests. And, although it’s not a blocker, I also really, really like HTTPS Everywhere, which is an extension that forces your browser to load a secure connection to the websites you’re visiting whenever possible.
Next, I’m going to recommend you head over to the Digital Advertising Alliance’s OPT OUT programme website here: aboutads.info/choices. You’ll have to disable AdBlock, Disconnect.me, and Ghostery while you’re completing this process (they’re that good) on your computer. Visit the site and complete the Opt Out request on every device you surf the web with: your computers, your phone, your iPad, your Kindle, etc. Do it in every browser that you use on each platform. It will find what cookies and trackers are present on your machine for each browser and send in the opt out request to each company. Once you’ve finished, reenable your blockers.
Honestly, life without Facebook is no different than life with Facebook. The apocalypse scenario you’re imagining isn’t real, and I certainly haven’t fallen into a hole in which no one can contact me. In fact, I’d say life is a little better. Since I posted the announcement I’d be deleting my account, I’ve actually talked to friends from college and a few of my first career jobs that I hadn’t heard from, directly, in years. That’s been awesome! I’ve now got updated contact information for a bunch of people I’ve thought of calling many times only to get a disconnected line or the wrong person. For a “social media” platform that was supposed to connect me to my friends and make it easier to stay in touch, it sure did the exact opposite.
If you’re thinking about ditching Facebook, and I strongly encourage you to do so, fear not! There are several very easy ways to get all the photos, videos, and important messages off of the platform, out of the cloud, and onto your computer. Frostbox is the free service that I used, in addition to requesting the Facbook-native archive.
Once you have everything you need, it’s super easy to delete your account.
Like I said, I deleted mine on Sunday, around 10:30pm Eastern. For the moment it is technically still there, though it is “offline” until final deletion next Sunday (after the 14 day “waiting period”), but for all intents and purposes it’s gone. You can’t search for me, you can’t find my photos, you can’t tag me in new ones. And, you know what? I’m much happier.