I deleted my Facebook account
One of my new-year resolutions for 2018 was to stop using Facebook . This was, firstly, triggered by a mindful reflection about the time I was spending hooked to a never ending stream of news, photos, and notifications. I thought that I could be more productive with less distractions, that I could focus on the connections that mattered the most.
However, I was dubious about what impact it could have in my life. It is a big digital change, and I had to consider whether Facebook was my way of keeping in touch with family and friends even if we were not in contact daily. I also thought it was my source for knowing what is happening , and sharing whatever I produce online, which eventually could lead to more work.
My first step was to remove the app from the phone. Small step, but since I was on holidays it was still a big one. No more way of checking what was happening . Second step, back home, was to remove Facebook from the password manager. If I was pray to temptation, it should not be easy to get instant gratification.
The first year
The first few weeks of routine life took a bit of adaptation. First, I had plenty of online time in my hands and didn't know exactly what to do. I poured all that time into Twitter and Reddit, which in hindsight may not have been too wise. But then, nothing fundamental changed. The account was there, just that without photos and removed all public access to anything about me. No one really cared. Facebook notifies you when someone updates, not when someone deletes content.
The only thing that I started noticing was that the tango community is really built around Facebook. Without it, I couldn't know if there were events happening, if classes were starting or of someone needed a partner. I lost access to groups were people is selling and buying stuff. But, to be honest, I didn't miss any kind of social 'interaction'. Yes, I was a bit outdated regarding who was pregnant, getting married or breaking up. I was also out of the loop regarding where people went on fantastic holidays.
But I also learned that I didn't care about most of that information. I don't care whether a distant acquaintance went on holidays or not. I don't care about keeping them updated about my holidays either. And friends or family, they still kept me in the loop about their trips and romantic lives, also to a second degree. Therefore, I still had access to the information that mattered to me.
And regarding sharing what I produce, which is mostly technical writing for Python for the Lab , found other ways of reaching the proper audience. I was featured on newsletters, upvoted on reddit and hackernews. And they proved to be great sources of curious people. So, my economic activity at the time was not particularly affected.
After the first year
Another new-years resolution, I decided to delete my account. This time for good. But, before doing it, I wanted to send a message to all my contacts with updated information on how to reach me and a call for reflection. I built a bot that would send a message to each one of my contacts:
On December 31st, 2018, I've decided to stop with Facebook.
First, I've realized how much of my time the app was consuming. Just Facebook and Instagram could account for 80% of my time online. And I started to wonder what was I doing with those apps.
At the beginning, they were great for sharing moments with family and friends. Then, their algorithms improved and I was just spending time because I felt compelled to do so. I could also see the impact social networks have on people's lives. You are exposed to an hiper-biased perception of other's realities. Just check how everyone is happy all the time, traveling to exotic places "where no one has been before", declaring ephemeral love to each other.
In part is our own publication bias, we choose to show only face to others. In part is the bias generated by some algorithm deciding that I would spend more time in here if I saw only happy people. And that has a toll. At some point, you wonder what are you doing wrong that your life does not look not like what you see.
And then, the privacy scandals came. Facebook accumulates enormous amounts of information on our lives, relationships, mood. They know our behavior patterns. What websites we visit, how often we check them. Probably they know us better than we know ourselves. And they, knowingly, decided to violate our intimacy by selling the data to the highest bidder.
This cannot be forgotten nor forgiven. We have the power to change how corporations behave by simply stopping using their services. Our data was used not only for product advertisement but for political gain. And don't be fooled, this didn't happen exclusively in the US. Cambridge Analytica had contracts all over the world.
And if it wasn't Cambridge Analytica but a different company, Facebook would have collaborated with them anyways. What is the line a company has to cross for us to condemn it? It's been 7 months without using Facebook. Without having it on my phone. Without notifications. Without thinking that if I don't post a photo on Instagram I would fall in the rankings.
To tell you the truth, I've recovered plenty of time in my life. I can read more the newspaper. I can be longer on the phone with the people that matter the most. I can engage in meaningless discussions on Twitter.
Sending that message to my ~900 contacts took around a month. Facebook was blocking my account for 24 hours after sending it to 20 30 people at a time. But I did. In the process I learned something very meaningful: some people just don't read. Even though I said I would cancel my account, people till replied within it.
But I got very interesting reactions by e-mail as well. Besides complimenting me on the decision and other banalities, one friend raised an issue: she is a cellist, and most of her contracts happened because someone managed to check her videos on Facebook. At the time I didn't have an answer for her, even though she regretted not being able to quit the platform altogether it was part of her economic activity.
And what now
Facebook keeps piling up problems, such as that Facebook can't regulate itself , especially when it comes to content moderation. More privacy scandals, political meddling, incitation to violence, hate speech are triggered, shared, empowered every day within the platform. I also managed to understand What is wrong with Facebbok , and that I couldn't articulate at the time.
I haven't stopped using all of Facebook products, though. Sadly, WhatsApp has locked me in and, despite my efforts, the people about whom I care the most are not willing to switch away from it. On the bright side, I have finally realized How does a world without Facebook look like . It is bright and full of opportunities, and it is up to us to take them.