The only winning move is not to play

I figured out how to quit you, Facebook, and still see photos of my nieces and nephew.

First, I’m still “there,” a ghost in the machine — lurking, instead of participating. That way I can still virtually visit the friends, colleagues, and relatives who insist on swimming the algorithmic pool. I don’t trust Facebook — I haven’t for years — and it was time. In the version of this post about it on Facebook, I made a long list of “other places to find me” but you’re already here, so I’ll skip ahead to the how-to and why-the-heck part…

Deleting everything I’d ever posted took four weeks. Four. Long. Weeks.

The Facebook machine does not want to let you go. You have two easy options via Facebook, and one hard option via a Chrome extension if you want to get off the rollercoaster to any degree.

Difficulty Level, EASY: You can deactivate your account, the softest “exit,” which saves your content and account in case you want to come back later. This is good if you just want a break but don’t want to lose your family photos, pithy one-liners, and late night 80s music posts. You can do this easily in your Settings under the small triangle menu icon at the top right of your profile page.

Difficulty Level, MEDIUM: Technically this full-on “Delete My Account” option is “easy” — you just push a button (also in your Settings menus) and go through a few hoops to make sure you really, really, really mean it. Facebook doesn’t want to let you go. It gets a “medium” rating, however, for the emotional tax doing this causes. Facebook doesn’t give you a lot of meaning in your interactions, but it rewards the parts of your brain that make it feel like it does, so it can be hard to leave. Like quitting smoking, but for your emotional health.

Difficulty Level, HARD: The option I chose was this one: Facebook Post Manager extension for Chrome. Note: Before I did this, I went to my profile and downloaded my entire zip archive. I talk a lot, so this was a big file. It grabs every photo, update, comment, like, group, and page for you to have and cherish always — or until your life gets back to normal. Your choice. Here is a screen grab of the extension in action:

Because I knew going in that I wanted to nuke every post from every year, and found by trial and error that Facebook completely rejected doing all of them at once, I found a way to do it year by year, all posts in one year. The asterisks show the settings for that in the extension. It still took a while. Know why? 33,611 total updates from my first day on Facebook until my update about a random current event an hour ago. That is not including comments, likes, pages I’ve liked, photos uploaded outside of the timeline, tags to remove, or group posts. The majority of those posts were inane time killers. I should have plenty of time now to write another novel. Also, you have to delete each of those categories separately, which adds time. The CPU drain for this project was intense, my MacBook sounded like a plane taking off.

But why, though?

I started thinking about how Facebook affected me in 2011, but felt that needing it for work outweighed the personal desire to leave. As time went on, the data leaks, manipulation of Facebook users for psychological algorithmic experiments without their consent, overall privacy violations, and cavalier attitude to user safety began to increase; I knew I wanted to leave. I also knew that deleting everything I’d ever written would be a post-by-post endeavor taking over a year based on how much I posted, so I tabled it.

Then, the 2016 election happened. Or, more relevant to my decision, the months leading up to the election happened. Once you have to block a number of your own family members as well as friends you’ve known since elementary and high school because of the lies and hate they are invested in thanks to having Facebook as a primary “news” source without having the media literacy to sort fact from fiction, leaving becomes more urgent. Before the news feed became pseudo-sentient enough to manipulate what people believe — and by extension how they choose to behave, Facebook could be filed under the nuisance folder. Now, however, as we watch hate and lies filter out into the real world putting real people in danger, it’s time to let it go.

The behavior surrounding the election isn’t the only reason for leaving, however, it’s just the most personal. I’m also leaving because Mark Zuckerberg’s goals for the internet itself don’t seem to align with mine. Facebook wants to replace the internet. It’s even offering “Free Basic” internet service to help make that happen, but we all know everything free comes with a price. As Facebook pushes to make video more prevalent in society than literacy and reading, adds in layers of virtual reality to pull people further from being in the real world than they already are, uses machine learning fed by fallible humans with human biases to determine what and how we read and watch… I just want to opt out. I don’t think good things can grow in vacuums. Only things that fester survive in closed environments.

Now that Facebook Workplace has arrived — before Facebook has even attempted to solve any of the privacy, access, and truth in information issues, no less — I think it’s even more important to step back before these issues bleed into the work environment. People tell me “it’s a different product,” but it’s made by the same people, so… is it really? Already we’ve established that the family of Facebook apps has some incredibly invasive practices (and I’ve long recommended you don’t have any of them on your phones), so what will we discover about Workplace down the road? I’ll put more resources about these points below.

Did it fix the algorithm, to have no content?

Not for a while. I saw no difference in the algorithm until I’d deleted at least a full ten years of content. The main difference immediately apparent was seeing content by people I’d marked as close friends or family again. That content had been hidden for years. I always thought that was odd, since I’d marked the people as “close” to keep their posts in my feed. Even now, the feed is still trying to figure out what I want. You’d think that the sheer number of times I’ve selected “Most Recent Posts” each day to keep my feed complete and chronological, the Facebook-bots would know by now that I didn’t want to miss a thing, and I don’t want to see things out of order. But hey, what do I know about what I want? I’m just a user mooching off a free product trying to keep in touch with family and friends and colleagues when they live far away.

Resources

Facebook Post Manager (Chrome Extension) https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/facebook-post-manager/ljfidlkcmdmmibngdfikhffffdmphjae?hl=en-US

A must read about all of the aspects of Facebook domination: VR, AI, Chat, Newsfeed, Messages, Bots, Net Access, Money, etc: https://medium.freecodecamp.com/mark-zuckerberg-is-the-most-powerful-person-on-earth-but-is-he-responsible-5fbcaeb29ee1#.no7scmz7c

Psychology of fake news: https://www.engadget.com/2016/11/21/clickbait-fake-news-and-the-power-of-feeling/

Manipulation of users: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/everything-we-know-about-facebooks-secret-mood-manipulation-experiment/373648/

From https://medium.freecodecamp.com/mark-zuckerberg-is-the-most-powerful-person-on-earth-but-is-he-responsible-5fbcaeb29ee1#.no7scmz7c

From https://medium.freecodecamp.com/mark-zuckerberg-is-the-most-powerful-person-on-earth-but-is-he-responsible-5fbcaeb29ee1#.no7scmz7c

On deleting Facebook: The only way to win is not to play