I Deleted my Facebook Account

I can’t remember where I heard this, but I really like the interpretation of the hellish upside down world in the Netflix series Stranger Things as a stand in for the internet. As in the upside down world of that show, the internet has become a very dystopian place lately. Monsters unleashed in the virtual world of the internet regularly come to haunt us in the real world. Those same monsters abduct us into endless hours in front of our computer screens.

Let me first say that I’ve been reluctant to write this post. It’s a privilege to be in a position where one can delete a Facebook account. Many people have to use Facebook at work or because they are part of a group that uses Facebook to communicate. Ironically, the less fortune in our culture are more likely to be chained to services such as Facebook or doing a computer’s bidding (think Uber or TaskRabbit). But there are many more of us, such as myself, that thought we had to use Facebook (in my case a promote books and a blog) who, in fact, could do quite well without it.

The heart of the problem
My issues with Facebook began long before the recent scandals. I spent the period of Lent, not giving up but, instead, meditating on my relationship to social media. I used this period to question my motivations. If I had the urge to post something on social media I first asked myself why I wanted to do this. I also read books, articles and listened to podcasts by media theorists exploring the mechanics of social media. In the end I came to the conclusion that the privacy problems of social media are minor when compared to the spiritual and psychological ones.

It seems to me that the main systemic problem of Facebook and other social media platforms is that they have taken the entwined vices of individualism and narcissism and made a business model out of them. You post something and then you want to immediately check back to see if you’ve been “liked” or commented on. The tech bros of Silicon Valley have figured out that if you harness this addictive narcissism you can, as a side benefit, harvest a lot of data to sell to advertisers.

One could accuse this blog of having the same narcissism problem and in my worst posts you’d probably have a point. But there are important differences. I don’t harvest your personal data when you look at or post a comment on this blog. I do try to provide useful information rather than just seeking approval for my latest harebrained homesteading project (though, admittedly, I sometimes fall short).

Facebook claims to not be about individualism but instead to bring us all together. Mark Zuckerberg, in his recent testimony to a bunch of clueless and out of touch senators kept repeating that Facebook is about creating community (which I think he actually believes). But Facebook does just the opposite. It leads to the illusion of community while actually encouraging many hours spent alone in front of a computer. Since deleting my account I’ve found myself setting up in-person meetings with people I don’t see very often rather than just looking at their Facebook posts.

But it would be wrong, I think, to blame Facebook for pulling us apart. Facebook, as Patrick Deneen put it, “elicits loneliness from a deeper set of philosophical, political, and even theological commitments,” namely the “do it your way” consumerist cult of the individual that dominates both the ideologies of the right and the left in this country. The reason those clueless senators could not get to the bottom of the problem with Facebook is that they aren’t even aware of their own shared philosophical assumptions about individualism.

I could go on. Even if you subscribe to a radical individualist take on the world, the creepiness of Facebook’s business model should scare you. I’ve been reading Jacob Silverman’s book, Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection. It’s a sobering 429 page nightmarish list of social media’s many sins. Then there’s Jeremy Ashkenas who, in a series of tweets, dug up some of Facebook’s patent applications. As others have pointed out these patents read like Black Mirror episode summaries. If that isn’t enough, there’s Facebook’s attempt to exploit depressed teenagers for advertising revenue.

Ironically, much of the privacy intrusions of Facebook are probably pointless. When I downloaded my Facebook data prior to pulling the delete button, I found a fair amount of on-target information. Facebook knows that I’m an epee fencer who practices urban homesteading, reads Rowan Williams and goes to Nick Cave concerts (damn, that’s all pretentious!). But it also seems to think that I’m an African-American who grows with hydroponics, rocks out to the Queens of the Stone Age and loves Honey Baked Ham. I suspect much of the data Cambridge Analytica gathered was, similarly, off-target and useless.

How to #DeleteFacebook
As many have noted, if something is free on the internet you’re not the customer you’re the product. But the solution is simple. You should consider paying for access to quality information on the internet. I’ve spent the last year doing an intensive self-study of woodworking. Towards that end I have an online subscription to Fine Woodworking. Their website is an encyclopedic compilation of articles and how-to videos all vetted by that increasingly rare bird known as an editor. I’ve also subscribed to the online version of The Idler magazine (which readers of this blog will enjoy). And I support my favorite podcast, the C-Realm as well as my favorite YouTuber Garden Fork via Patreon subscriptions. None of these websites or podcasts are addictive. They don’t harvest your data. They provide useful, thought provoking information and live up to the original promise of the internet as a place to share and learn. And let me also thank the Patreon subscribers of Root Simple at this point as well as all of you who have bought our books or attended one of our workshops.

Should you come to the same conclusion I did here’s some instructions on how to delete Facebook. It wasn’t that difficult but you do need to first review any website or app you may have used a Facebook login for and change your login information. You can also download a copy of all your Facebook images and posts which will also show you some, but not all, of the information Facebook has gathered on you.

Facebook doesn’t let go of you easily. If you login to Facebook within a few weeks of deleting your account, Facebook signs you back up. When I tried to delete my Instagram account, I found that I would have to log back into Facebook to do so and that would sign me back up for Facebook. Should you not want to delete your Facebook you can also deactivate it temporarily to see how things work out.

I haven’t missed Facebook one bit. As for book and blog promotion I’m planning on starting a sporadic newsletter that you can sign up for that will also list events and some fun off-topic stuff that I think you might all be interested in. Stay tuned. Together we can shut Mark Zuckerberg’s inter-dimensional portal.

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44 Comments

  1. I don’t think I’m quite ready to delete. I think there’s still some value in me being on Facebook for my business (though I’ve chosen to keep the online community part of it completely outside of it).

    I’ll sign up for the newsletter once you get it going. I’ve used MailChimp (same as Eric from GardenFork) and its worked well for me. They do all the stuff needed to comply with anti-spam legislation worldwide.

    In the meantime, I’ll keep seeing all your posts in my RSS reader. Thanks for the post and good luck in the post-Facebook world!

  2. I was never on facebook so I can’t share any thoughts on deleting membership. I do know that my not being on it stopped most of my communication with family overseas. I try by e-mail but seldom get replies.
    This actually made me more determined not to sign up.

    I do belong to an online community, basically a fibre community that has groups on almost all subjects. There is no fee to join….but if there were I would gladly pay.

    From that online place I found a local knitting group that meets twice a month.

    Good for you for following your conscience

    • This is it exactly–how do we use the internet to foster groups that meet face to face like you knitting group? FB promises this but, in my experience, doesn’t deliver. I don’t have an answer to this question. Meetup works better but has been kind of crushed by FB.

  3. May I please obtain your permission to translate this post into French (not France French but Québec French [oh yes there’s a difference]) and post it, with due credit [and more], on my own (French-written) blog at Campagnonades.com (which, if I took the time [a huge commitment 9 years and 1,200+ posts later…] to translate/adapt it to English would most likely be Countrifications.com)?

    (I’ve been a professional freelance French-English and – mostly – English-French translator for 14 years now and would gladly answer any question you may have about me/my work/etc..)

  4. I am not going to delete it, but I rarely go there, only to other people’s fb accounts. I have nothing to say on mine. I do wonder how much they think they know about me. ???

    None of my friends informed me of a friend’s sudden death because they put it on FB. That was their only excuse with not one apology. Hmph, I am still very miffed. I blame it all on fb.

    • Sorry to hear that. I understand where you’re coming from. I’m in a non-profit group in my community and people seem to think that if they put it on the Facebook group or page everyone should know.

    • At our next meeting, I’m going to remind the non-profit I sit on the board of that FB buries posts and only wants us to spend money on advertising. From what I understand you’re lucky if you get a 1% click through rate.

    • Your friends should know also that FB’s algorithms can hide posts. Even if you announce something like a friend’s passing there is no guarantee that everyone will see it.

    • I’ve tried but its hard to convince people. Maybe with all the new stuff they’ll be ready to change. I had setup a page for my business and I got tired of all the “notifications” that were basically wanting me to buy ads. So I deleted the page.

  5. RSS is all I seem to need for current pubs by those I read. Plus Patreon for those onlinies I can support (like Root Simple). Haven’t missed Facebook since I deleted both it and sadly-departed MySpace.

  6. I still get a lot of utility out of FB, mainly connections to extended family and friends around the country and world. It is FUN when we get to see each other to actually have things to talk about. I have a sense of what their interests are and can actually ask questions about those.

    On the other hand, I watched a professional group completely and utterly melt down this weekend, resulting in the moderator up and quitting. In shutting down threads with spectacularly racist comments, certain members of the group decided that she was racist for censoring threads about race. When she was simply trying to stop the incredibly nastiness from certain posters. And then the pile on began. And a bunch of people steamrolled someone who was their ally. More to the point, I watched a bunch of supposed progressive liberals bully the hell out of a progressive liberal who was just doing her best trying to moderate 2700 people. Social media can’t fail harder.

    So. I really enjoy keeping track of distant friends and family. It has helped us be a lot less distant. I have no idea how to balance that with the abuse that takes place on social media. It is a completely schizophrenic way to live.

    • Speaking of moderation, one of the things that angered me about Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony is that when the senators asked about policing violent comments and posts, he kept saying that artificial intelligence would take care of it. This is complete BS. The only way to really keep this kind of behavior from happening on FB would be to hire many thousands of moderators fluent in all the languages used on FB. Of course, Zuckerberg doesn’t want to do this because it would make FB unprofitable. I’ll add that screening internet content is one of the worst possible jobs. Imagine spending your entire day looking at beheading videos, animal cruelty and child pornography.

      On NextDoor, threads sometimes devolve into racism and because NextDoor also does not want to pay for moderators it asks users to do the moderation which then leads to acrimonious online arguments.

  7. Thank you for the thoughtful post. I, too, deleted Facebook after the recent scandal. I was a regular user, but surprisingly, don’t miss it at all.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to write a card to my old college friend.

    • Lauren–thanks for the link–just added that book to my to-read list. Looks interesting.

  8. I have responsibilities on the GardenFork & Jefferson Hour pages at FB, so I have to log-in to monitor the playground. But I’ve pulled all my data off of FB (as well as twitter and Google…as best I could).

    However, I can’t deny the community building aspects of FB, especially “discovery.” In that sense, FB has done a lot of good. I discovered GardenFork & RS on FB, as well as a couple of K9 rescue groups I work with. I’m sure it’s the same for most people.

    And I’ve made genuine friends on FB, even though we’ve never met face to face (as well as generated some genuine enemies).

    I’m participating on reddit again (there are outposts of civilization) and I’m experimenting with diaspora. Like you, I’m also a supporter of several content providers on Patreon. But all of the people I support on Patreon are folks I first found on FB.

    Without FB, Twitter, Instagram and several other social outlets, I’m generally happier and more productive. But I do wonder how folks who depend on FB discovery are going to grow their audience.

    • Great to see you here Rick! I agree about the discovery part of it. Like I said at the top of the comments I’m keeping it for the presence I need (or think I need) for my business. I do wonder, though, if being off of it would help me in some way – by finding the other ways of promoting and finding other non-Facebookers?

      Did you just go through and delete posts or was there another way just to delete the data?

    • Hey Rick–thanks for dropping by Root Simple. I enjoy hearing you on the Garden Fork podcast.

      I hear you about the community part of FB, especially with groups like the dog rescue organizations you mentioned. That said, I really think we all need to put our heads together and engineer some community building alternatives to FB (like newsletters and our own websites). The interview on this podcast really opened my thinking on some of the problems with depending on FB to promote small organizations and businesses: https://c-realm.com/podcasts/crealm/524-big-data-little-privacy/.

    • Scott…

      There are any number of articles on how to find and delete all of your personal data from FB without deleting your account. You might start with this: https://mashable.com/2014/07/02/how-delete-facebook/#Htpbxxh9qOqN

      But I understand your concern about spreading the word about your business without FB. Frankly, that’s TBD.

      However, I’m not sure FB was such a boon to advertising B2B anyway.

      I have been busy moving my website from Square Space to WordPress. And one of the things WP seems to help with is SEO, especially better than SS.

      Right now all I can really think of that really works is a kind of Gardening or Agriculture prostitution ring.

      You mention GFR, Who mentions RS, who mentions IG, who mentions SS, etc. etc. Even sharing a bit of ad space among the group. Essentially returning to the “Ring of Trust” relationships from a decade ago. A consortium, so to speak.

      I dunno, my crystal ball is cloudy.

    • I’ve always wondered if we could figure out a way for all of us in the homesteading community to work together on something . . .

    • Erik….

      I didn’t know about c-realm, until I read your piece. I have that episode queued.

      I’m a big fan of newsletters, especially concise summations of lots of news in a specific area. But, now I’m drowning in those and have had to thin the herd.

      I was a big fan of Patreon in the beginning, but then I noticed quite a few content producers hadn’t published anything in months, riding on the automatic charging gravy train. So I dropped those who were not paid per newly published piece. Then, a lot of the old monthly people popped back up on paid per piece, but they were turning out junk.

      I also wondered about creators who produced really good material, but just took a long time, like authors.

      I’m still exploring Diaspora and related FB replacements. We could get almost the FB experience (not as polished) on Diaspora, but without a wholesale migration of the public to that platform, it could mean a whole lot of work for no results.

      It feels like we’re back in the days of dial-up BBSs and new BBS discovery was through The Well.

      Frankly, I would have paid for an ad-free, non-data gathering FB.

      I get rather angry when I hear people insisting that everything on the internet should be free. They never pay for an app. They never pay via Patreon or some other service.

      I wouldn’t build a quality product for free. I contribute freely to Mozilla for Firefox because I know freeware will turn to crap. The same I contribute to WikiFoundation.

      My Magic 8 Ball says: ask again.

    • You are reminding me how bad I am with Patreon. Eric is much better about posting stuff.

    • Erik – Regarding your comment about making something better within the homesteading community I think the answer is everyone needs to experiment and make small communities with loose ties between them. We don’t think big, or one platform to make it work. It’s many doing their thing.

      I’m working on my own online community that is focused on plants & soils. We can have side topics on other stuff but I want to stay focused on that. Eric at GardenFork is all about eclectic DIY along with some gardening & cooking. You specialize in deliberate design of spaces and really thinking about how to make urban homesteading work.

      I’ve set mine up with a pay system but after reading though all of this I wonder if it should be a Patreon like model. I don’t want to exclude people that can’t pay but on the other hand I don’t want just everyone in there. I want it to be small enough that people can get to know each other.

  9. Glad to hear that you’ve pulled the cord on Facebook. You won’t miss it, I promise! I will be looking for the email subscription!

  10. Nicely done (leaving FB) and nicely written! Loved the “Stranger Things” connection. Speaking of Netflix series, have you watched the German series “Dark”? If you liked “Stranger Things”, I think you would enjoy “Dark” as well.

    • The social credit things scares me too. I had a small taste of it recently when I had to show how many Twitter followers I had in order to get a press pass. The Chinese are ahead of us on this one and have tied in facial recognition. Scary stuff.

  11. I deleted my account about six years ago and it’s been an interesting time since then. I feel huge freedom not having it; I felt it was completely disingenuous and I wanted more authentic relationships. But some of my friendships have really suffered. One actually told me, “FB is how I connect with my friends. If you’re not there, you’re going to miss a lot.” She has refused to email or call me. We communicate by text only and it is infrequent. This has basically broken our friendship, and we’ve known each other since kindergarten. Other folks have taken the initiative to start writing actual letters back and forth, some are very careful to email me frequently, and of course I’ve had to really step up my communication game, making sure to keep things moving along. I have also had college classes (I went back to school at the age of 49) want to use it for school communications and I’ve had to ask for other avenues. One of my kids has to have it for her theater group communications and both of us hate that. It bothers me that there’s not another way for groups to communicate. Anyway. I applaud you. I think you’ll find it very freeing and you won’t miss it at all.

  12. Erik,

    Thanks for this. I think Facebook for me has been a source of unhappiness. While I like hearing people’s opinions and giving mine. Being bombarded with political ramblings, red herrings, and other garbage and in turn feeling like I have to retaliate by sharing my own political drivel that no one really wants to hear I wonder how I would disconnect from and delete facebook and yet keep in touch with my family outside of California. Facebook is a huge time drain but I do like the groups. I wonder if there is a happy medium.

    One thing that is good is that I visit RootSimple.com more often to see what you have written.

    • Thank you Jamie. I too found FB to be a source of unhappiness. And I also miss seeing some of the groups. As for people I miss I’ve noticed that I’ve started just calling folks and setting up times to get together.

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  14. Stranger Things is great! Really liked it….I deleted my fb about 7 years ago and do not miss it one bit. About to delete my instagram; seems to be on the same crazy train, about to derail. Love your blog!

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