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.

80 comments

  1. andrea frazer

    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.

  2. Peter Vaughn

    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

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  5. James

    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.

  6. Unhappy Facebooker

    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.

  7. NO ONE

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

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  9. noone

    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.

  10. shilohdream

    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

  11. Marge dowell

    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

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  13. sema

    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

  14. Aubrey

    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.

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  16. Barbara

    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

  17. The Doctor

    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. :!:

  18. Heather levett

    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:

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  21. one peeved user

    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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