So I deactivated my Facebook a few months ago to enjoy a more distraction-free sabbatical, and there wasn’t really a minute where I missed it. I considered deleting it this week for a few reasons. The company’s ethics are crap, they have insidious practices related to data mining and privacy, and the way they ensnare users in order to prevent the exercise of agency in the ways in which we engage with the platform…well, all of that is nasty and is having tangibly negative effects on society. I have many friends who have left the platform in protest, and I understand and support that decision. However, when I got off Facebook, I noticed that the connections I lost were mostly what I think of as “local” connections: the ability to engage with my students (especially), friends from elementary and high school, acquaintances who live near me, people who are part of my daughter’s regional public school community. It bothered me to lose these connections because so much of my life and work is about making change inside these local communities. I remember Mike Caulfield (I think it was Mike?) once saying to me that he stayed on Facebook because Facebook was where people were. I get the double-edged crap of that statement (and so does Mike), but fundamentally, the work, the love, the hope, and the chance for change are with people, and lots of the people I engage with in this work are on Facebook.
My kid (age 15) won’t touch Facebook with a ten-foot pole (she is on Snap Chat mostly, but it’s changed from ooVoo to Kik to Instagram and I have hope that her generation is more platform-diversified). My college students seem to be increasingly ambivalent about the platform. When people aren’t on Facebook, I’ll be gone immediately. And here’s why that will be easier for me:
For the last four months, I have been deleting my data from Facebook. Let me tell you, if you want to understand the grossness of Facebook, try to delete your data. I have been working diligently, sometimes for hours a day, to do it. I have had about 90% success if I had to guess (it’s just a guess, since the data has a sneaky way of coming back sometimes after I scrub it). I mostly used Chrome plug-ins (especially Social Book Post Manager) to do this, and some days, I ran hours of scrubbing plug-ins only to find that at the end, all of the data came back. At this point, I feel reasonably sure I have deleted all but a couple of my posts and photos, and all of my videos. I have also removed most of my likes and comments (and all of my Messenger messages on my end). I have untagged myself in most if not all of my friends’ photos and posts. I still find stuff pop up once in a while and I manually delete it. You can help me if you see me on Facebook in something older: draw my attention to it so I can scrub it away.
My plan going forward is to manually delete all engagements at the end of every month. I will also refrain from hosting much content on Facebook, and will instead add most things to my blog and then link to Facebook (go #IndieWeb!). I will be stingier with my likes and comments to make the deleting easier. This is all totally a sub-par kind of workaround, but I feel mostly satisfied with where I have landed with my decision after months of deciding what is best for me and my online and local communities. I can’t imagine anyone else wants to do this in this way, so I know I am not offering a feasible model here (some folks have had better luck with some of the amazing digital detox documentation from Amy Collier, and the plug-ins I used are not as effective a way to scrub as are available to those with more skill, but I got snared in Python and couldn’t get far enough along). But the whole process has made me more aware of what I want in my social media: connective pathways; agency; privacy; community.
Ok, I am heading over to Facebook to reactivate for a while now (I have been popping in and out as I did this work, deactivating every night and trying to stay invisible). See you there! Or see you on Mastodon.