Why I’m deleting my Facebook account

Update: 31 May 2010

This is by far the most visited post on my now-sleepy blog. It is also more than two years old.

A lot of people are finding this post by searching Google for other people who are thinking about leaving Facebook. This is understandable given the recent surge of discontent among the FB community. However judging by the comments there is a certain level of confusion caused by the the gap of more than two years between this blog entry and the current Facebook revolt.

In the interests of clarity I provide the following FAQ.

1. Is this a place for me to explain to Mark Zuckerberg why I am deleting my facebook account?
No.
That is, given this is the personal blog of an Australian academic, he probably won’t read your comment, but feel free to vent if you like.

2. Did you know you CAN actually delete your facebook account?

Yes, this is a change that has occurred during the more than two years since this post. Since this post, I have succeeded in completely deleting my account. I think.

————–

I know the zombies and pirates will be sad and my virtual garden/fish/panda will die, but I’m leaving Facebook. I swear it’s not a case of getting early adopter syndrome. Trust me, given my background in subculture theory, I have workshopped that one.

It’s complicated and potentially long-winded, so in a nutshell, I have both professional and personal reasons.

1. Facebook is an excellent example of worst practice in almost every aspect of how to run and manage an online social network, and as someone who ostensibly believes there are good and bad ways to do those things, I don’t want to be part of it anymore.

2. Too many worlds colliding, too many invites to vampire garden pirate fishtank zombie kissing applications, and yes, I ended up with kind of too many friends from too many different spheres of my existence (not that I don’t love them all, really) for it to be non-complicated and fun.

Which is fine, and mostly my own fault, I can just log in less frequently, right? Apart from all the obvious problems with that (ignoring friend’s requests and messages and birthdays?), when I started toying with the idea of leaving I had this thought: “Sigh. I can’t leave. Everyone I know is on there and increasingly organising events through the events application, and…”

Whoa, what? I CAN’T LEAVE a commercial service that I never thought was super awesome in the first place and now I’m sick of BECAUSE MY SOCIAL WORLD IS STARTING TO DEPEND ON IT???

Right.

So the only way to reclaim my capacity to act is to engage in the politics of refusal, which I usually think of as pretty much an expression of impotence. Which makes me even more angry.

OK, so to be a bit more rational, here are just a few of the areas in which Facebook takes the prize for worst practice.

1. I’m not the first to say this, but yes, Facebook is the antithesis of the concept of openness.

2. The Terms of Service Use are a triumph of Kafkaesque surrealism and nasty, mean, trickery.

3. Almost every means at the user’s disposal to make their experience of the site safer, more socially comfortable, and less irritating (turning off notifications, making certain content visible to certain friends, making your profile invisible to Google searches, etc) requires effort and knowledge on the user’s behalf. Which is one among many symptoms of utter contempt for the users. See 4.

4. Did I mention the Terms of Use?

5. Oh, and even though Tom Hodgkinson clearly doesn’t respect the unwashed masses any more than the company does and generally thinks the interwebs are a waste of time, according to him it might also be run by an evil neoconservative conspiracy. Which would explain 1, 2, 3, and 4, and gives me little hope that user activism will ever make a bit of difference.

Anyway, there’s always a straw that broke the camel’s back. In my case, it came when an older member of my close family rang me for info and advice about how to ‘get onto’ Facebook, because other family members were sharing photos and news there, which anyone not using Facebook was missing out on.

The longer I talked about what people use Facebook for, and how to manage friends and privacy and tried to answer questions about why Facebook needed your date of birth, and whether ‘they’d send all kinds of junk emails’, the more uneasy I felt. It wasn’t anything like the many, many ‘how to use email’ or ‘what you can do with the Internet’ or ‘how to edit your digital photos’ conversations I’d had with family members and older friends and acquaintances before. So that’s when I started thinking about leaving.

Oh, and by the way, in order to delete your Facebook account, apparently, you have to not only deactivate it, but also delete every single item you have contributed to the site (messages, wall posts, posts other people have written on your wall, photos, links to contacts, profile information) and then email customer service and request they delete your account completely. Oh, and also, in order to delete absolutely everything, I’d also have to re-add every single one of the applications I’ve ever had installed, and then go through and remove the content, and then delete the applications again. Because when you delete an application, guess what? Your data is still stored there somewhere.

That’s not just meanness, but I’m pretty sure it’s also not just to be helpful in case you’re quitting in a fit of pique like this one and might decide later that you want to come back. It’s also because of the way the business model works: Facebook and all the marketeers who sail in her pretty much just want you to visit as many ad-bearing pages per visit as possible (that’s what all those applications and invites are for), and having lost your eyeballs, they’d quite like to keep the data that can be mined from those activities. So they’re going to make it as difficult as possible to scrub that data out of the system. Can you guess how much that softens my heart toward the company?

This is all very obvious of course, and absolutely non-unique, I know that. It’s just I’m not willing to put up with it anymore in this particular case.

So off I go digging little tiny pieces of content out of my account until it’s all clean again. It will be gone by this time tomorrow.

78 thoughts on “Why I’m deleting my Facebook account

  1. Good move! I have not left Facebook – I just began to ignore it. I have switched off all the notification emails and let it evolve without me. Its a bit like ignoring the work that needs to be done in a garden… Eventually the neighbors will begin to accept that you don’t take care of it…

  2. I am glad you posted this entry. I’m in the long, excruiating process of deleting my facebook account and I feel much better knowing others are resisting the giant that is taking over the public sphere.

    grrr! Long live snail mail.

  3. Totally understandable. I’ve pointed my students to this post as their next assignment asks them to reflect on Facebook as participatory surveillance…

  4. Interesting to read this Jean. I’ve been having the same feelings, amplified since the Hodgkinson piece, although I didn’t know how hard it was to leave. I’ve been looking around at alternative socialnetworking sites (mugshot, pulse, elgg, ning, peopleaggregator, mulitply … ). It’s difficult to evaluate – and of course then there’s the problem of whether all your friends will come too. Then again, this has always been a problem with social networking. It’s like changing pubs. Never easy but sometimes necessary.

  5. The counter-intuitiveness, and the data mining, really piss me off, but I think the worst thing is that Facebook covers the territory where I used to think people would create their own independent networks. It’s all about social exclusivity, and fear of missing out. Yay for deletion.

  6. Mathias, nice to hear from you! And hey – how come you weren’t ever my Facebook friend??? ;)

    Katy, do you still really use snail mail? I’ve been promising a few people in particular actual written letters for a while. It’s something I really miss doing! Maybe I’ll get round to it soon after all.

    Anne – cool! The course looks great btw.

    Andrew, if you could see QUT’s local you’d realise how accurate your metaphor is!!! I’m not trying to get people to follow me (and I fully expect everyone else will carry on Facebooking without me). My friends all know where to find me anyway; I’m not sure my social life will be destroyed by this wanton act of destruction. BTW, the wanton destruction side of it was kind of pleasurable. That’s why mere deactivation just wouldn’t do.

    And Az, I hear you re: independent networks, but of course creating and maintaining those creates a certain level of enterprise and a certain set of technological competencies that Facebook helps you to bypass (which is part of the reason for the mass take-up). And there’s the tension, right there.

    PS, we’ll have to play Scrabble IRL sometime!

    Phew, this autonomous social networking thing is hard work.

  7. Great rant. I started benignly neglecting my profile at the start of the year, and haven’t really looked back. I’m finding myself still contacting the people I’d usually contact via e-mail anyway, and everything else just becomes too distracting and/or annoying. The insane difficulty of deleting your account just confirms all that you’ve been feeling.

    I wonder: will we all look back at Web 2.0ishness in a decade or so and wonder WTF we were all thinking handing over our data and desires just like that?

  8. hi jean jean
    I have something to confess. I am not on Facebook. I have never even looked at Facebook. (The whole thing gives me a big headache.) Reading your rant though, its funny hearing the elements of addiction (I HAVE to be on it, or something bad will happen) that probably perpetuate sites like this – but maybe also wear people out in the end?
    I was thinking of having a look at Facebook…but you’ve changed my mind. Thankyou!!! (love you maaaaaate)

  9. Hi Jean

    Actually I joined Facebook because of my brothers who joined…Well, i must have been in my “5 minutes” because I didn’t do any reasearch about that site….embarrassing because I’m an IT guy and normally do some research ………….
    Anyway…wished I would’ve read your blog earlier…
    Your writing is hilarious…

    All the best from Switzerland
    David

  10. Facebook is like a lobster trap. It’s easy to get in, the bait looks enticing but it’s oh so hard to leave.

    My prediction is they’ve put up the going out of business sign.

  11. But if I leave Facebook, how will all my friends know my status, or poke me, or tag me in photos…. oh, wait, none of this crap really means anything anyway doesn’t it?

  12. I can’t believe so many people are being THIS bothered by this. I think the fact that people are driven to madness and have to actually delete their cute little facebook account for resolve is, in itself, creepy.

    I have a facebook account. I have a lot of friends on facebook. That’s it. Nothing else… No Lawnmower Man, no Matrix, no evil blood in the wires… just another internet site.

    Gee whiz. You folks scare me.

  13. Thank you for this, it’s just said everything I’ve been thinking about for months now. I’m leaving Facebook before they get more than I want them to get, or more than they already do have … !!!

  14. Now,wouldn’t it be far better and easier to make THEM erase your profile?
    Ive got several warnings because of a picture i held there which mocks Islam…

  15. I agree completely with this blog post.

    It mirrors my sentiments and I just went through and deleted my facebook too.

    The people that cant understand or think facebook is just one more site really need to think about the bigger issues.

    1. The lock in is a big deal. It’s very hard to get all of your data out of facebook (messages, photos, friends email addresses). Which means people are more likely to stay.. The other aspect to lockin is that face that facebook does not conform to the opensocial api etc means that you’ll stay on the site because your friends are on the site..

    Lets face it, it IS fun to see what your friends have been upto and also post a few pics of some family event to update people.. But the problem lies in the fact that they have such a tight lockin it’s near impossible to get away from it all and still keep as updated with your friends.

    2. The dubious origins facebook.. ie. stolen source code from the guy that originally came up with the idea (the connectu.com guys).

    It’s not about addiction.. I hardly log onto my facebook account, maybe once every few weeks.. but it’s just the ever growing beast that locks you in tighter and tighter widening its monopoly without having to do anything.

    It’s also an abomination of a site, it’s bloated, slow, full of spammy apps, and generally horrid.

    And then there’s the lack of privacy and contact partitioning that means anyone that knows your name can request to get onto your friends list.. which is fine if there was adequate privacy and partitioning settings.. but there’s not, which means it’s a constant fight adding people and worrying about group convergence.. Do you really want your neighbour, mother, supervisor, best friend, and guy you met at some conference all knowing the same things about you.. (bad enough) but even worse… knowing everything about each other without even being friends.

    Bye Bye facebook.. Go opensocial, or go away.

  16. Hi! Thanks for the post.

    I am new to facebook and am very happy to reconnect with old lost friends there and to see what they are upto… and photos and so on…

    But I do feel all the annoyances you mentioned.

    Also, I shall go very easy on the apps…

    Satya

  17. Facebook access you webmail contact list like google, yahoo, hotmail,etc without your permission and use it to generate the suggestions friend list. I am seeing people that I never met before or ex-coworkers from 5 years ago. This is an unethical practice and it’s illegal. They are evil and they only care about you personal data. I can see this company selling your data in the black market in the near future.

  18. jen… Don’t be scared to sign up under a bogus name so you can have a look. You can use Facebook to check up on people you work with or you employer. Or a potential boyfriend or a crush. Be careful with that though. I’ve found that people I may secretly admire or like, once I’ve seen their profile or parts of it I realise there is no way we are compatible. But that crush feeling is still there. So Facebook kinda sux like that. Personally I’d rather get to know someone over a romantic dinner than peruse their (me and 4000 other people) Facebook profile. I dunno, I think things like Facebook kill all the romance and mystery of life.

    oh and Mike… Why don’t you tell me you Facebook id number and I’ll show you exactly what I can do with it.

  19. Well yeah deleting by hand to maintain if you, null valued comments and applications could amount to, nor should you be able, thus far I’ve never had an issue.

  20. Thanks Jean for a post that gives one some healthy thoughts.

    I also really appreciate the opensocial thinking and it’s currently hard to say what will become of this chaos they call 2.0 ;)

  21. This place was actually decent when they had standards and college students were on it. Now, it’s full of 10-11 year olds who want attention and 50-60 year olds. Disgusting & annoying. Most people who are on it now are not even aware that it’s been around for a while! Now it’s just another useless fad for old people and children who want attention.

  22. blah blah, you’ll be old some day and your kids will be saying the same thing about you as you join the next social networking wave to keep in touch with family and friends left behind. You might even want to look at a few photos of your grandkids, so don’t be insulted when some young punk writes a comment like yours and says ‘get lost, you old fart. You’re not wanted here.’

  23. I completely agree. I felt the same weird “Oh no, I’m going to lose touch” and yet, how LAME. When I sell a book, let some other hourly worker (perhaps some of your haters) be my “social media connection” and post for me since I’m too old and unhip and 40 to want to deal with this crap. THANK YOU for saying it better than I could. If I were still on FB, I’d ask to be your “Friend” and send you a virtual bouquet of flowers.

  24. I completely agree! I have found myself (after maybe 6 weeks) saying the very same things. In fact, my latest blog post says what I feel. Great post you’ve written. Peter

  25. You can’t delete it. You “deactivate” it, but you go through the login procedure, there it is. Like you never did anything to it.

  26. You can delete your account.
    https://ssl.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account&__a=5

    I’ve turned a blind eye to facebook’s issues in the past but in the last month, I’ve had 2 issues. Firstly, one day i noticed that all my interests and activities were visible to everyone. And then today, i noticed that the supposed “new and improved” privacy handles actually compromised my Privacy. I had set certain groups to be unable to view status updates and wall posts – however, today they all can see it. I’ve taken time to create relevant groups for relevant posts – i am NOT a silly user but this just really angered me.

    I am supposedly being street smart , but still getting fooled by FB. I will be deleting my account as well. Wish i did the smart thing like you did and got it done 2 years ago.

  27. Because thay can’t stop racial pages. Did you know that Pakistan and Bangladesh have already blocked facebook.

  28. many moons from now people will look back on these facebook days and say “what the fuck was i doing back then wasting my life on that stupid shit”.

    I have said no to every attempt to enroll me in that stupid waste of time since it went online, and fuck you shpuld only have to say No once.

  29. It’s so true! I literally became paranoid when a relative of mine left facebook. To not see him listed under my “Friend” section suddenly had me thnking he has deleted “himself” from my page. Immediately my mind started wondering in a panic over “what I had said or wrote that offended him”. Was the mob after him? a baby momma? was he dead? in jail? Irs after him? But then I understand why some get rid of FB. To constantly see two FB pals talking to each other and continually ignoring you, make you wonder if they only signed you on so you won’t “be offended”. Even if it might be your sister living in your very house! LOL

  30. I am unscribing from facebook because I really don’t have time for this. I have tried to find a place to unscribe but can’tget it to work for me,Please take me off now. Thank You Marge Dowell

  31. goes to ones who facebook is not as bright as educaters my facebook is meaning less love adventures not true in world of insainity love hopes but can be happy to be alone if husband is not settled with me cannot balance others facebook

  32. Excellent post. I’m deleting my facebook this week also.

    Facebook used to be really enjoyable for me, but with all the recent changes, it’s really getting shady.

    Thank you for writing this.

  33. I have been trying to read my outstanding Facebook messages, but no matter what I do, I cannot access them – so decided to close my account, since it is doing me no good. Any idea how I can do this easily, please? I understand it’s quite difficult. Any help and advice you can give me, would be gratefully accepted. Many thanks

  34. I, too, am deleting my Facebook account. I appreciate your excellent post and have referenced your “Wait, whoa!” quote in my own blog, on my own post dealing with why I am no longer going to be using Facebook, myself. :!:

  35. because I somehow have 2 facebooks and can’t get into the 1 I like to use and told I can’t get rid of 1 without loosing the other, so I will leave them both. So frustrating :mad:

  36. In my 2 hours of using facebook this is my experience.

    1.I went online and added my real life friends.
    2.was on for 2 hours.
    3. came back to find that facebook`had decided i am not who i am.
    4. I have now waited more than the time it took facebook`s algorithm to decided that i was not who i am.
    5. their recovery method also involves doing the same thing on their website than emailing you to say that if the issue is not fixed do it a gain in an email.

    The best part is their facebook team had typo`s in their support message. ” If you already uploaded a picture of your ID” and ” If you are still can’t back into your account”.

    I want to quit after only using the service for 2 hours. Way to go.

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