I've been a heavy user of various social media platforms over the years. I started using Twitter and Facebook in 2007. And for much of that time, I've had good experiences and enjoyed sharing updates, photos and news with friends and family that are spread across the world.
But the relationship has soured over that time and I've decided enough is enough. I've taken the first step to escaping Facebook.
Over the years Facebook has morphed from a college tool for connecting students within and across US college campuses to a global platform providing commerce and advertising alongside the ability to share more and more information. When I look back at my first posts and compare them to the kind of content I can post now, it's clear that Facebook has been consuming more and more of whatever I have to give it.
A couple of months ago I spent some time curating my Facebook feed to reduce the number of ads I was seeing and to get rid of groups and pages I'd followed in the past but had most interest in.
That made a difference but I’m still not really happy. I’m finding many people are less capable of informed debate and respectful disagreement. Sometimes I’d participate in a discussion only to find people resorting to name-calling and insults when there’s disagreement.
Frankly, I’m all for listening to diverse perspectives but I don’t need that crap in my life.
I started thinking about leaving Facebook when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. But I decided to give Facebook a chance to show they are able to fix things.
But instead of things getting better, they have slipped. And revelations that millions of security credentials were stored with very little security and were accessed with very little oversight.
Facebook’s entire business model is built upon our content. If we don’t share and engage its value to the company’s shareholders and to us is limited. And over the last few months my contributions to Facebook have reduced to the point where I comment on maybe one friend’s update every day or so and rarely post anything of my own.
I’ve also been thinking about all the photos, check-ins and other updates I’ve made that include other people. Now that my biological kids are older, and I’ve given it a lot more thought, I have shared their lives without permission.
Given that, it time for me to go.
Delete or deactivate?
When you’re leaving Facebook you have a couple of options.
If you delete your account Facebook says it will delete all your content. And you lose access to Messenger.
Deactivating suspends your Facebook account. No data is deleted but your account is inaccessible. Messenger keeps working.
I’ve decided to deactivate my account for now. I’ve deleted the Facebook app from my smartphone and tablet. The main reason I’ve not deleted for now is that I rely on Messenger to stay in contact with some friends and business contacts.
If you're a page administrator, you'll need to make sure there are other admins or those pages will eventually disappear.
Unless I come up with a compelling reason to keep my account, I’ll go back in, download all my content and then delete my account.
How to delete your own Facebook account
Deleting your Facebook account is reasonably easy (far easier than deleting an Adobe account).
- Once you'e logged into Facebook, go to Settings and then hit the Edit option on Manage Account
- You'll then have two options - Deactivate your account or "request account deletion".
If you choose to deactivate your account your profile will be disabled and your name and photo from most things that you've shared on Facebook. However, things like your name will still appear in your Friends' list of friends and none of the messages you've sent will be removed.
Account deletion is a longer process that Facebook says can take up to 90 days. This is the time it takes for every trace of your presence on Facebook to be removed. However, once the deletion process starts, you'll become invisible - no trace of you will be seen while the data deletion process is in progress.
Deleting your account is permanent - there's no way to get your data back if you choose that path. Deactivation is a good way to take a break from Facebook without having all your data removed. (As mentioned above, this is the course I've chosen to take.)
Before deleting or deactivating an account, there's one thing I reckon is worth considering. How will you keep in contact with people who rely on Facebook to stay in touch. While being concerned about privacy is important, don't forget your real-world friends who rely on Facebook as a way of staying connected.
What about Instagram and WhatsApp?
I've got - or I should say I had - an Instagram account but it's gone now. I wasn't a big user so deleting instagram isn't a bog loss.
I'm hanging on to WhatsApp though. It's an essential tool for business communications, particularly when I travel. And while it's not perfect and I'd prefer to use Signal or something more secure it's ubiquity makes it hard to ditch.