Quitting Facebook yields poignant memories

I’ve long had issues regarding Facebook and privacy. In November, I deactivating my Facebook account. It was mostly symbolic, as deactivating your account doesn’t actually do anything; the next time you login, it’s reactivated as if nothing had happened at all. But in the intervening period, I didn’t use Facebook once. Deactivating it was my first step towards getting rid of it completely. And now I’ve taken the next step.

Yesterday, I temporarily reactivated my Facebook account, but only to wipe out all of its contents (which is apparently the only way Facebook will then let you delete your account). It was kind of a sad experience. I had to remove all of my friends from my account and un-tag myself from all of my pictures. Luckily I hadn’t uploaded any of my own. It brought back a lot of memories of fun times from college that in all likelihood will never happen again, such as dorm parties. As I deleted friend after friend, I was stricken by the sad truth that I will never see the majority of these people again in my entire life. Deleting them from my Facebook account, which was severing the only link I had left with many of them, was symbolic and poignant. It had me moping around for a good hour afterwards.

Forget how mechanically hard Facebook makes it to quit (why can’t they have a simple “Delete my account” link like nearly every other site out there, MySpace included?). It’s even harder emotionally to quit. I was only able to do it because I value my privacy so highly, and I don’t like the thought of my personal data being at the whims of a company like Facebook which demonstrably does not value privacy. But the majority of people wouldn’t be able to quit, even if they were concerned with the privacy aspects. Facebook, like a symbiotic parasite, becomes an essential part of your life. It’s a black hole that sucks in many of your social interactions, that you can’t take with you when you leave. All of your messages, contacts, photographs, and other personal mementos stay behind. I regret ever joining.

That’s why Facebook is so insidious. If you must use it, use it only to contact your friends who are hard to contact via other means. But don’t use it for anything else. Use services that respect your rights and allow you to take your data with you. Don’t upload your photographs to Facebook just to show them to friends; use something better. Don’t send PMs via Facebook, send emails. You can always save emails with ease. I wish someone had told me this advice four years ago when I signed up with Facebook, as it would have saved me a lot of the grief I went through yesterday.

To those of you who are looking to quit Facebook but find the thought unfathomable, here is my advice: do it in stages. Use Facebook less and less, and make a conscious effort to transition everything you care about it off of it. Make sure to get non-Facebook contact information on all of your actual friends (IM usernames, email addresses, and cell phone numbers would be a good start). Transition your photographs off of Facebook into a web photo gallery that you are more in control of (something like Flickr or Photobucket would be a start, but hosting it on your own site would be ideal), then stop uploading new photos to Facebook altogether. Don’t use Facebook’s PM feature anymore; use SMS text messages, instant messages, or email instead. And then, finally, pick a date when you are going to leave Facebook for good and announce it on your Facebook profile, giving people time to reach you with any last essential contact information.

Then when the date comes, do the deed and never look back. I’m not going to say it’s easy. In fact, judging by my experience, I would say it’s immensely difficult. But that feeling you get when you’re finally free from Facebook, and all of your social interactions and personal information are yours again, makes it all worthwhile. I was sad yesterday, but I’m happy today, and so shall that feeling continue.

One Response to “Quitting Facebook yields poignant memories”

  1. Kay Says:

    Brilliant article, fortunately my facebook was always sort of dead, not that much happening on there so it wasnt quite as hard. But I know how it feels. I have just deleted mine and feel so much better. I found there was too much peer pressure on facebook, the need to fit in and do what everyone else does. I just wasnt me, ive never been “part of the crowd” anyway and being facebook beoing online doesnt make things any different.