Thoughts on leaving Facebook

I’ve been one foot out the door for a while, but decided to deactivate my account earlier this month.

Why am I leaving? Two main reasons.

There was a very thorough and interesting report published in 2017 by Deloitte that found the more we use Facebook, the less happy we are and the worse our wellbeing is. You can read a good summary of the report on Harvard Business Review here or download the full thing here.

There have also been similar conclusions drawn in studies from the University or Pennsylvania (Nov, 2018) and the University of Surrey (Jan, 2019)

After reading the initial study, I started considering my own usage my more deliberately - how much time was I spending on Facebook? What was I doing? What value does it have to me? And after concluding “too much”, “not much” and “not much” respectively, I found myself naturally scaling back the amount I used Facebook (and other platforms) throughout 2018. As more research seemed to point the to similar conclusions and benefits, I decided it was time to go.

The other major reason is Trust. 2018 has been a big year of scandals for Facebook and Wired does a good job of keeping track of them (it’s easy to lose track!). They’ve counted 21 as of the time of this posting and the full list continues to be updated. The combination of Cambridge Analytica, Six4Three and the multiple political scandals does not give me confidence that Facebook is using data ethically.

What’s been most interesting though are some of the things I’ve learned while investigating what happens when you leave Facebook, as well as the process(es) and consequences of doing so. Here are a couple of interesting things I found while de-activating my profile.

Nothing changes when you leave

I don’t feel like I’ve been missing out on anything either. I made sure to post to my friends about a week before I deactivated my account so that everyone was aware. It’s now been over a week since I de-activated my account and I’ve found that lots more people have been calling me, rather than texting me on messenger. And its nice to talk to everybody!

De-Activating VS Deleting

While you can leave Facebook, the extent that you leave can be different. I chose a combination of de-activating and deleting. Specifically, I deleted my Messenger and WhatsApp accounts, and de-activated my Facebook account.

The difference between deactivating and deleting is mainly whether or not you can ever access your account /data ever again.  deleting means you can’t access it again, while de-activating means your account is dormant and (largely) no longer visible to others.

Deleting my Messenger and WhatsApp accounts was easy because there’s very little of value stored in those conversations. I made a conscious decision not to delete my core Facebook account though, and that’s because I wanted to experience life without it first to make sure the impact on my relationships with friends and family didn’t suffer. We’ll see how this is going in a few months time and I may choose to delete my account then.

Lastly, you may have noticed one omission - Instagram. That’s because my account is still active there. Though I use it very little, I still enjoy posting landscape and travel photography there. For the moment, I’m comfortable keeping this active. 

It’s surprisingly easy

Facebook doesn’t make it difficult to deactivate or delete your account(s). Guides for each platform can be found below;

After following the steps to de-activate your facebook account, there are 5 prompts you need to complete before your account will be fully activated. They weren’t detailed on the FB sit, so I’ve anotated some screenshots below for you on what to expect.

 Downloading your Data

Before leaving, I downloaded all of my data from Facebook as a zip file. If you’d like to download your data, there’s a step by step guide that can help you here.

The file you get is either HTML or JSON, and it’s pretty big. Mine was about 2GB and while I haven’t opened it yet, I’m interested to explore it later. Some of the data science work I’ve been doing lately will probably come in handy here. 

Things I still wonder about

I’m still waiting to find out a few things, and will update this post once I know more about:

  • How / is Facebook going to try to entice me back?

  • Are they still tracking my activity off the platform?

  • What impact will there be on third party apps I use?