I’ve disengaged from Facebook (FB) last October, mostly because I wanted to create more space for paying attention, and for active, not merely responsive, reflection and writing, and realised that the balance between the beneficial and destructive aspects of FB had tilted too much to the destructive side.

My intention was to keep my FB account, as it serves as a primary channel to some professional contacts and groups. Also FB Messenger is the primary channel for some. However I wanted to get rid of my FB history, all the likes, birthday wishes etc. Deleting material is possible but the implementation of it is completely impractical: every element needs to be deleted separately. Every like needs to be unliked, every comment deleted, every posting on your own wall or someone else’s wall not just deleted but also the deletion confirmed as well. There’s no bulk deletion option. I tried to use a Chrome plugin that promised to go through the activity log and ‘click’ all those separate delete buttons, but it didn’t work. The result is that deleting your data from Facebook means deleting every single thing you ever wrote or clicked. Which can easily take 30 to 45 mins to just do for a single month worth of likes and comments. Now aggregate that over the number of years you actively used FB (about 5 years in my case, after 7 years of passive usage).

The only viable path to delete your FB data therefore is currently to delete the account entirely. I wonder if it will be different after May, when the GDPR is fully enforced.

Not that deletion of your account is easy either. You don’t have full control over deletion. The link to do so is not available in your settings interface, but only through the help pages, and it is presented as submitting a request. After you confirm deletion, you receive an e-mail that deletion of your data will commence after 14 days. Logging back in in that period stops the clock. I suspect this will no longer be enough when the GDPR enters into force, but it is what it currently is.

Being away from FB for a longer time, with the account deactivated, had the effect that when I did log back in (to attempt to delete more of my FB history), the FB timeline felt very bland. Much like how watching tv was once not to be missed, and then it wasn’t missed at all. This made me realise that saying FB was the primary channel for some contacts which I wouldn’t want to throw away, might actually be a cop-out, the last stand of FOMO. So FB, by making it hard to delete data while keeping the account, made it easy to decide to delete my account altogether.

Once the data has been deleted (which can take up to 90 days according to FB after the 14 day grace period), I might create a new account, with which to pursue the benefits of FB, but avoid the destructive side and with 12 years of Facebook history wiped. Be seeing you!

FB’s mail confirming they’ll delete my account by the end of April.

3 reactions on “From Semi Freddo to Full Cold Turkey with FB

  1. My friend Ton has been blogging up a storm on the blogging-about-blogging front of late:

    From Semi Freddo to Full Cold Turkey with FB
    Algorithms That Work For Me, Not Commodotise Me
    Revisiting the Personal Presence Portal
    Adding a Wiki-like Section

    He is, as such, a man after my own heart.

    And he’s inspired me to recall the long-dormant feeling of how it felt to be building the Internet together, back in the days before we outsourced this to commercial interests as a way of saving money, learning curve and messiness.

    The difference now, a year after I decamped from the commercial web, is that when I did that I was focused on a combination of “the commercial web is evil” and a profound sense of personal failure at having been part of letting that happen, whereas now I’m filled with tremendous hope.

    It’s not a coincidence that I work under a banner called Reinvented: time and time and time again over the course of my life I’ve found utility in returning to earlier iterations of technology.

    Letterpress printing has taught me so much about the true nature of letterforms, in a way that the digital never could.

    Keeping a ready supply of cards, envelopes and stamps in the office has kindled a practice of regularly thanking people for kindnesses, advocacies, and boldnesses.

    Teaching myself to sketch has changed the way I look at architecture.

    What Ton’s writing–and the zeitgeist that surrounds it–have made me remember is that we invented blogging already and then, not completely but almost, we threw it away.

    But all the ideas and tools and debates and challenges we hashed out 20 years ago on this front are as relevant today as they were then; indeed they are more vital now that we’ve seen what the alternatives are. And, fortunately, often we’ve recorded much of what we learned in our blogs themselves.

    So I propose we move on from “Facecbook is evil” to “blogging is awesome–how can we continue to evolve it.” And, in doing so, start to put the inter back into the Internet.

    Blogging | Internet | Technology

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