Goodbye Facebook?

[Update May 17: If you read this post before today, you might notice that the title now has changed with the addition of one extra character: the question mark. Reaction and comments since I published this post on May 15 have given me some pause to think, with one potential attractive-sounding alternative to a complete exit from Facebook. See the additional content at the end of the post.]

[Update May 30: Final decision – I decided to implement a pretty measured way to keep a Facebook presence on terms that I’m happier with. It’s more ‘hasta luego‘ than ‘goodbye.’ Details at end of post.]

I just deleted my Facebook account.

fbdelete3

After being with the social network for some years (I forget when I joined: either 2007 or 2006, invited by Philip Young), I’ve concluded that it simply isn’t a place for me any more that I want to spend time in.

I have no major issues with Facebook. Never had any problems with my account, with privacy, with spammers or trolls, none of that. And while Facebook privacy concerns is a pretty hot topic for discussion these days, that’s not a primary reason why I decided to quit the service.

It’s just not a place where I really spend any meaningful time. I don’t really engage with anyone there; every time I do check in, I encounter conversations galore of which I’m purely an onlooker. About the only activity I have there is automatically piped-in tweets from Twitter. (Every time I look at my Facebook presence, all those tweets look like so much spam to me.)

I don’t use many of the apps. Those I do use, I wonder why as I can easily live without them. I’ve become fans of many companies and brands. But no one’s world will stop spinning just because I’m no longer part of those communities in Facebook: in many cases, there are other places, notably Twitter.

Which brings me to note the place that I do spend most time online in a social network sense. It’s Twitter. I joined Twitter in 2006, so it’s a place I’ve been hanging out in for a while.

For me, Twitter is the place I like the most. I like the people there, many of whom are also in Facebook. But it’s a different environment there and I like it better than Facebook.

What about the business aspects of Facebook? Will I miss out on connecting with business people? Miss out on engaging with companies, etc, via fan pages? Will others miss me no longer being there?

Well, I can’t answer the latter question. For the first two, though, yes, certainly on Facebook if I’m no longer there. But many of the business people I connect with in some way are also elsewhere, maybe in some of the other places I visit from time to time if not on Twitter.

I had considered locking down my Facebook account rather than deleting it entirely. But it’s difficult to understand exactly how to do that in a way that makes you feel sure it is locked down, ie, being an online presence how you want it to be and not only how Facebook wants it to be.

So I guess I am influenced by the online talk about privacy concerns.

Anyway, I’m gone from Facebook. Or, according to the weirdly-formatted confirmation email I received, I will be in 14 days time::

Hi Neville,<br/><br/>We have received a request to permanently delete your account. Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days. <br/><br/>If you did not request to permanently delete your account, follow this link to cancel this request:<br/><br/>Thanks,The">Thanks,The">Thanks,The">Thanks,The">http://www.facebook.com/ account_delete.php <br/><br/><br/>Thanks,<br/>The Facebook Team

That’s if I don’t log in to my account again, so there is grace if I change my mind within this time.

I followed WikiHow’s How to Permanently Delete a Facebook Account, a pretty good guide on the steps to take to delete a Facebook account as it includes some things you might not have thought about, eg, cancelling any Facebook Connect logins you’ve created elsewhere before you make the move within Facebook itself.

So these are my reasons for leaving Facebook. I would stress I have no personal issues with the service and recognize that many people gain huge value out of being part of the communities there. It’s just not for me any more.

As for my own 400+ Facebook friends – which includes some family members – I will miss you but hope to still connect with you elsewhere.

Twitter, for instance.

[Update May 17] Since writing this post two days ago, there have been some terrific comments and opinion, notably via Twitter, on the wisdom or otherwise on what I’ve done. Others have commented here in this post, below, with similar and other thoughts. Thanks, everyone, for adding to the debate.

According to my server logs, this is the most popular post by far over the past 30 days. And, just two days after publishing, PostRank ranks it already at 10.0 out of 10.0. So clearly, the subject of quitting Facebook is a pretty hot one for many people who are looking for information about it and, obviously for some, how to actually do it.

howdoi

So I’ve done it and, if I sit quietly and ignore Facebook for the next 14 days (well, now 12 days), my account will vanish into the ether and nothing will remain to show I was ever there. Not quite sure about that last bit, but basically I understand it would mean that if you search for me on Facebook next month, you’ll find nothing.

When I wrote the post, one thought remained in my mind – it could be good if somehow I could still remain a member of Facebook but not discoverable or visible at all to anyone unless I chose to be discoverable or visible. If I wanted to see what such and such a company was doing or accept an invitation to something taking place only in or via Facebook that I would like to take part in, I could just log in to do that and not suddenly pop up on some radar page or other showing the world my status and visibility (and tools like the Openbook search engine that lets anyone search Facebook Updates adds hugely to my sense of unease from the Facebook user’s privacy point of view).

This would mean that I could keep current on what’s going on with Facebook from first-hand experience, a point Eric Rice raised in a comment to my original post:

As someone involved in the so-called social media industry, how do you stay current on facebook developments outside of second-hand reporting and not first-hand experience? It would seem a strength would be in dealing with FB’s evolving BS, purely as part of ongoing career education.

In truth, I would find that having a clear ability to control my account and its privacy settings are preferable to a complete and total exit from Facebook.

Much of my own research showed that locking down your Facebook account – a point I made in the post – is possible through tweaking many if not all of the scores of privacy and other settings in your account.

The trouble is, though, that none of what I read led me to a feeling of comfort that any such account-tweaking genuinely would give me control over my own account on my terms not only on Facebook’s.

I’m happy to compromise but it never looked to me as through Facebook would be.

Then I discovered a compelling post on Lifehacker, written by Whitson Gordon on May 15: the same day I wrote this post.

I found How To Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook the easiest piece of advice on what to do that I’ve yet seen. The key advice is this:

The Less Extreme Alternative
Luckily, there is another, more middle-of-the-road option. That’s not to say this isn’t still extreme—this isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t a tutorial about how to change your privacy settings. This is a tutorial on how to create the most minimalist Facebook profile possible, with as little information on yourself as possible, to be used only for communication between you and your friends. You won’t be able to do much on the site; you probably won’t even visit the site that often. This is not for people who want to continue using Facebook; it is for the people who are ready to up and quit tomorrow, but don’t want to miss out on the next party just because they care about their privacy. So if you’re really ready to give up wall posts, comments, Farmville, and fan pages, here’s how to proceed without falling off the face of the Earth.

Create a New Account and Transfer Your Friends
Technically, this part is optional, but I also think it has the biggest impact on how the rest of your experience will pan out. You could just edit all the information on your current account, but if you make a new one and delete the old one you’ll have a completely clean slate. You won’t have any posts lingering around anywhere, no personal information for the taking and no photos tagged of you. Plus, this is prime time to get rid of all your friends that you don’t need. Do you really still need to be Facebook friends with that girl you met at that party that time? Didn’t think so.

That looks like what I want to achieve and keep a presence on Facebook. So within my 14(12)-day grace period, I’m going to test this advice and see if it does enable me to stay with Facebook, on my terms.

[Update May 30] Decision made – I keep my Facebook account but in a way that fits better with my desire to control what information is displayed about me within Facebook and by others (that’s apps as well as people), and what information I’m exposed to within Facebook and by email.

infofriends

In other words, I’ll be there on my own minimalist terms as much as I can.

I’ve followed much of the guidance in Lifehacker’s How To Quit Facebook Without Actually Quitting Facebook. Basically, I’ve locked down my account to the extent that only existing friends can see certain content with much visible only to me.

Facebook’s recently-announced privacy changes make it easier to figure out what to change regarding your privacy settings, and are explained well.

I think that what you set will be influenced greatly by how you plan to use your Facebook account, overall privacy issues aside. So the lockdown I’ve done won’t be much good for you if you plan to be very active, and proactive, on Facebook. I’m not: Twitter’s the place where I do that.

So while it will be a rare moment that I actually do log in to Facebook from now on other than for specific business-related purposes, I continue with Facebook in a way that fits with how I wish to use the social network.

If you’d like to connect, let’s do that on Twitter.

Communication Leader, Social Media Leader, Consultant, Digital Change Agent, Speaker with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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