Late in March 2018 I decided to delete my Facebook account.
This isn’t the first time I’d decided to do this. In 2014, as Facebook turned 10, I decided to put my own usage of the social network on pause.
This didn’t last too long and only a few months later I’d decided to reactivate my account.
In 2015, in another attempt to reduce my usage of Facebook, I removed the apps from my phone.
Once again, this didn’t stick and the big blue app found it’s way back onto my device. (LinkedIn is still absent though…)
Last year, a combination of factors convinced me to take more drastic action and delete my accounts on Facebook. Firstly, I was becoming aware that I was spending an increasing amount of time on the app and this time was taking me away from real personal interactions.
I was maintaining a semblance of managing relationships with people when in fact, all I was doing was observing only their personal highlights from afar. In turn, I believe that this was leading me to a false conclusion that I still had a connection with these people even though it’d probably been many, many months (years in some cases) since we last spoke. The truth is that at least for these people, any relationship or friendship I once had had now dwindled away.
Around the same time I was thinking about deleting my account, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal hit with details of over 87 million profiles being shared between the two companies and used in political campaigning.
Zuckerberg and Facebook apologised for the breach, yet (in my opinion) were more intent on shifting the blame to Cambridge Analytica. Both parties were (once again, in my opinion) complicit in the data sharing, however Facebook granted permission for Cambridge Analytica to use the data and therefore shoulders the accountability for ensuring the data is used responsibly.
As I read more about the data breach (was it really a breach?) I became convinced that letting my Facebook account die was the right thing to do. 30 days later, my big blue account had gone.
As the news coverage and hearings surrounding the scandals continued, I looked at my usage of two other properties owned by Facebook – WhatsApp and Instagram.
Instagram was a fairly easy to remove from my life. I’d never been a big user of the service, however, in the weeks and months since deleting my Facebook account, I had replaced some of my daily feed-lurking with Instagram usage. I took the decision that the cost of being part of the Facebook ecosystem (even via Instagram) wasn’t worth it and I deleted my Instagram account later in the year.
The last stage was to remove myself from WhatsApp. This was a lot harder.
I’d been a user of WhatsApp since the paid 99c days and was really impressed with the the service and it’s approach to messaging. I had a small number of contacts which I exchanged messages with regularly and was a member of a small number of groups. Moreover, unlike my usage on Facebook and Instagram, messaging was an interactive experience and the number of people who I knew on the service was growing.
I decided to remove my WhatsApp account to evaluate alternatives. So far, I’ve tried Telegram and Signal (in addition to SMS) and whilst they’re both comparable in terms of service to WhatsApp, they just don’t have the users. I do think that I’ll be returning to WhatsApp in 2019, especially as I predict that peer-to-peer and private group messaging will start to overtake our usage of broad public social network usage.
Of course, I’m never really out of the Facebook ecosystem. My wife, parents, siblings, family members, and many of my friends all still have accounts. I still appear in photos on their streams and I’m sure that Facebook is still able to put a name to my face.
Facebook tracing cookies litter the web, so I’m pretty confident in saying that I still have a profile. However, rather than it being one that I control (or at least claim to control), it’s a darker, shadowy profile that I can’t see or delete.
And there I think lies a problem. Whilst I can do a bunch of things to remove myself from the Facebook ecosystem, I don’t think you can really ever truly escape.
So, what’s life been like Post-Facebook? I’ve found myself using messaging and email more, and I’ve made more effort to reach out to people who I’ve previously lost connection with. Having not seen everything on Facebook, I’m able to have better conversations with people when we meet. I don’t spend as long on my phone, although my Twitter usage has gone up. Overall, whilst the first few months were more difficult, I can honestly say that I don’t miss Facebook or Instagram at all.
Have I missed stuff since leaving Facebook? Undoubtedly.
Do I feel like I’m missing out? Sometimes.
Am I willing to pay the necessary price to deal with this FOMO? Absolutely not.