I got pissed at Facebook. And it was Lent. So I decided to quit for a few weeks. To cool off, you know. And to see what it was like to live life without it. I went about three weeks. I didn’t kill my account, I just stopped posting, checking, etc. Here’s what I found:
- After about one day, I didn’t miss it. I thought I would, but I didn’t. I deleted it off my phone, so I got out of the habit of checking it at all times. And then I didn’t miss it. That was surprising.
- I thought I would miss my friends — the people I see a lot on Facebook. But I didn’t really. I noticed that I wasn’t in touch with them, didn’t know what was going on. I missed baby pictures and stuff. But not very much. Maybe I was a little more focused on real-life interactions? Maybe.
- I’m not sure how much quitting Facebook reduced my overall use of social media. I ramped up my use of twitter and instagram. And I texted and whatsapped a bit more. On balance, I think was online a bit less — and more focused when I was on. But it didn’t have a dramatic effect and I definitely wasn’t more productive at work or at home. I read hard copy a bit more — finished a novel about John Brown. But I don’t really think quitting Facebook was a factor. In fact I got the novel recommendation via Facebook.
- There was a gap. Facebook fills a need to express things for me — observations, jokes about my life, my kids, lunch, little things. I like to post things — longer and more personal than tweeting, but not all the way to a blog or essay. Floating little ideas that don’t go anywhere. And photos and videos. I like to put that stuff up on Facebook and there’s an audience among my friends. I get enough likes and comments that it feels like a thing, a community, a jokey discussion. I did miss that. Used twitter and instagram a bit more — but it didn’t really fit the bill.
The thing is, I like my Facebook friends. And a large fraction of them are people I hardly interact with otherwise. Without Facebook, I”m definitely going to lose track of them. This includes family, old friends, remote friends, a few work colleagues. Some people I don’t know that well. My life is definitely richer for my Facebook community — and I value these remote relationships, especially the remote and international ones. I love being able to share photos — especially family photos with family with close friends. I usually do it via instagram — but not always. And I get a lot more feedback and interaction through Facebook than IG.
So, even while I don’t feel the kind of addictive need for Facebook — I honestly think I could happily let it go — I actually really value what it brings.
but I’m still mad and Facebook. In fact, most of this Cambridge Analytica things has broken SINCE I quit. So I have even more reason to be disgusted by Facebook. And I really am.
So I might really quit.
In the meantime, I’m thinking about how I approach Facebook to maximize what I like and appreciate about it, and minimize what I don’t, while reducing my own risks around privacy and
- I don’t do politics on Facebook. That’s been true for a while — certainly since the Trump election. I mean occasionally, maybe. But I just don’t think it’s a good place to debate, share, learn about political matters. I do that elsewhere (much more on Twitter).
- I don’t do work (much) on Facebook. This isn’t an iron law — but I’m not really interested in being propagandized or pitched on Facebook, and I try not to do that myself. I should note that this is against the grain — data show that Facebook is a very powerful information, communications, and messaging platform. I’m considering creating a separate, work-related Facebook account for that purpose.
- I try not to click on stuff. I really avoid clicking on any kind of advertizing, joining any groups, following any businesses or groups, etc. I avoid clicking on links and news articles (that you post). That’s just data for Facebook. Personal data. And they don’t respect or honor my privacy. I certainly am not shopping or buying anything through Facebook.
- I open Facebook in a separate browser from my other web use. I usually use Chrome, but use Firefox for Facebook. I think that keeps Facebook from grabbing other personal info (cookies, etc.) Going forward, I’m going to try to use Facebook with an “incognito” tab — again to hide as much of my personal info from Facebook as possible.
- With all due respect, I’m probably not going to click on news articles or other links you post. Mostly, I want to get my news and politics and information elsewhere. Facebook seems to facilitate a lot of low-quality, crappy, click-baity information sharing. No offense to you, who are sharing it. If I really must see what you’ve posted, I’ll probably do it in another browser or window rather than going through Facebook.
- I never open my personal Facebook page on my work computer. This is more an issue of keeping focused than anything else. It means I don’t do much Facebooking during the day — except on my phone riding the elevator or in taxis.
- I’m not sure about my phone. A lot of my use of Facebook has been with my phone, using the app. I think it’s a lot harder to implement my safeguards and strategy on my phone. And I think having Facebook on your phone is basically handing over huge amounts of personal data — geographic location, daily schedule, etc etc etc. I’m torn — because I like to use my phone for it, and it fits my daily schedule better. Might keep the app off my phone but look through a web browser. Not sure if that works well.
This is a work in progress. Update 4 April 2018.
Appendix: here is/was my message quitting Facebook:
21 February ·
Dear Facebook and my friends,
I’m taking a break from Facebook.
I love you and, if I’m honest, I really like Facebook. I’ve been defender — even evangelist — for Facebook for years, because the positive connection it helps foster among people, friends and family. Especially when those people are physically remote.
But more recently, I’m really troubled by the role Facebook is playing the society and the neglect the company is is displaying towards the greater social good. The most immediate and salient issue is democracy, truth, and elections. But, there are other issues. And there’s a lack of transparency, equity, and shared value. And, of course, there are the horrendous privacy and data-control issues.
I’ll probably be back after Easter. Or maybe not. I’m not shutting down my account for now. And I might pop in from time to time for work or logistical purposes.
Please be in touch — but not via Facebook.
Here are are some of the things I’m reading and thinking about: