Enough was finally enough. After several months with the Facebook app removed from my phone, it was time to actually deactivate my account. Though I knew it would be harder to stay in touch with family, I could no longer justify keeping an account after what can only be described as a horrific year for Facebook and its users. Right before the New Year, I clicked the big scary button, ending 12 years of Facebook presence in one fell swoop.
I had joined Facebook in 2006, back in college when it was still limited to a selection of schools and called TheFacebook. In the early days, it felt more like a bulletin board system, populated largely with questions and updates. Photos and personal updates soon began to take over the site, then it opened up to everyone. Soon, collecting a high number of Friends became a competition, and I was suddenly following every casual acquaintance I had made since grade school. Even with this pollution of the feed, it was easy enough to keep track of the important updates from close friends and family if one was willing to scroll long enough. Then came the algorithmic feed.
For the last several years, my feed has been an unusable mess of random updates from people I need to click through to even remember and clickbait posts from friends of friends of people I barely know. With the exception of reposts from Instagram from actual friends and periodic photos from family, I no longer got any value from Facebook. However, quitting just never seemed possible to me.
Then 2018 happened. I was sharing more photos of my twins than ever. Instagram made it easy to share with both friends through Instagram itself, and easily post to Facebook where parents, grandparents, and other family members could actually keep up. But throughout the year, the company divulged leak after leak and scandal after scandal. It quickly became apparent to me that Facebook not only did not value my privacy, or that of my family, but was actively working against keeping it. Apologies that felt so insincere I wouldn’t accept them from my two-year-olds fell flat and demonstrated that Facebook was never going to change. It was time to get out of there.
I realized it’s one thing to sit by and let my own privacy be destroyed, account details, pictures, advertising preferences, site history, purchase history from across nearly the entire internet, and tons of other personal data shared with advertisers and anyone willing to set up an advertiser or developer account, but it’s entirely different to do so with data of my family, and in many cases, my friends too. Nothing is segmented on Facebook. Anything that a connection does that I can see is just as leakable via my account and vice versa. Facebook is a convoluted web of connections, but it’s not just human connections, it’s all the data as well. Each leak only becomes more likely the affect others if they are connected to me.
Even worse, I was putting my twins’ personal data and privacy up for grabs way before they could even understand it, let alone make a decision about it. All the pictures, posts, and even tracking data of things I bought for them was being stored and likely lost during each of these leaks, or more likely, actively being sold by the company. I just couldn’t continue to do that to my kids.
Quitting hasn’t been easy. I miss seeing updates from my family, and it’s been much harder to share pictures of the boys via combinations of shared photo albums and text messages that I anticipated. I still haven’t deleted my Instagram account fully, though I’ve forced myself not to post for two months, testing the waters for removing it. Doing so would effectively sever me digitally from my closest friends, and I haven’t been able to pull the cord, even knowing that everything I do there continues to be tracked by Facebook. At least my messenger and WhatsApp accounts are gone too.
I’m also under no illusion that Facebook isn’t still finding ways to track me. Their use of “ghost” accounts, profiles created for non-active members for tracking in case they do join or re-join the platform, is widely known and distrusted. With over 12 years of info to track me on, I’m sure they’d still find me even if switching browsers or computers. In fact, not only do they use browser extension info and hardware configuration to track you, they can also apparently now use the unique pattern of dirt on a phone’s camera lens to identify an individual. Yeah, I’ll probably never fully get away, but at least I’m making it slightly harder for them.
I’m not asking anyone else to leave Facebook, but if you are considering it, know that it’s possible. If I, a habitual over sharer who heavily used the platform for a dozen years can quit it, so can you. I was also surprised at how it affected my time and attention. Without an endless feed to scroll through every day, I found myself staring at my phone on the couch at night and on the weekends less often. I even put the phone down more often while the boys were playing and when putting them to sleep. Yes, to be honest I still wish I was less tethered to Twitter and other apps, but I have noticed my dependence on social media greatly decreasing, and increasing connection to family and real life.
Deleting my Facebook account was actually far easier than I expected, and I’m so glad I finally got around to doing it. If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger too, it may finally be time. Otherwise, you’re only making it easier for more and more of your personal information to get tracked and stored. You may even find you have more time for things you actually care about too.