I’ve been considering closing my Facebook account for a while now, and after chatting to a few people about antisocial software at the weekend I’ve started to wonder whether to actually do it. Ironically I was talking about leaving Facebook at a party organised on Facebook, and I think the event organising bit is the feature I would miss the most.

So, how do you leave Facebook? Aside from the technicalities of finding a delete option that is, and confirming a few times that yes I really do want to delete. I still value the connections I’ve made, or rediscovered, through Facebook, so to start with there’ll be some exercise in pulling out all the good eggs and keeping track of them some other way.

Photo © themonnie cc by-sa 2.0

Finding alternatives is partly what’s pushing me to make the jump. 2011 is my year of paper, so that’s one option, but not an especially interesting one. Another is to continue to add business contacts to LinkedIn; I already started to counter work related Facebook requests with a LinkedIn invite. That is just moving from one walled garden to another though and, while the new garden may have less annoying farm animals in, it would be nice to leave the silos behind. I wonder if the semantic web can come to the rescue.

Then there’s a choice of which exit to use. A few alternatives I can think of:

  • Don’t look directly at it – stop logging in but leave everything there. Perhaps a bit to tempting too pop back in now and then, which isn’t that different to my current use of Facebook.
  • Just jump and hope the parachute opens – delete my account (if that’s possible!) without any warning. It doesn’t seem quite right to cut and run that suddenly, and there’s a chance I could lose touch with a few people.
  • Invite people to a ‘goodbye’ event – could even make it a real event in a pub, which would be a bonus!
  • Delete everything on the profile but leave it there – just in case…
  • Create a page/group instead – i.e. leave some place holder behind, with a signpost to this blog etc

What are the disadvantages of leaving Facebook though? I don’t want to be too hasty. It is good to hear how people are doing, but I do wonder whether I’ve been worse at keeping in touch with friends properly as a result of being able to take a quick look online instead. I have an idea that at least some of the pull for staying is just the thought that you might be missing out in some way. (In most respects I think that’s just an illusion.) Having said that, Facebook events are quite a nice way to organise get togethers…

Decisions, decisions. Should I stay, or should I go?

Update: ten more good reasons to leave, but the chances are I’ll still be using Facebook this time next year! (28 December 2012)

13 thoughts on “Facebookicide

  1. Good link, I’d forgotten about Alex’s experiment. Considering he wasn’t using Facebook or Twitter for a month, it’s an interesting view on their place in modern friendships and small talk. Plus I thought this comment hit the mark, “Funny really since in a way social media is even more impersonal than targeted emails.”
    When I use Facebook these days, I do tend to go for a more targeted approach (either direct messages of posts on someone’s profile), so going back to email might not be so much of a leap. Maybe.

  2. I don’t believe anyone’s life is enriched by leaving facebook. The connections I have and monitor on there are incredibly useful to me and the people I’m connected to. Same goes for twitter or any other social network.

  3. Hi James
    Thanks for the positive feedback. I’ll be interested to see how it goes for you.
    At least you can export your data from Facebook now (kind of).

    Now that I’m back on Facebook, I think what it is most useful for is starting conversations with the people in your life. If everyone that you would want to start conversations with is accessible in other ways (face to face, phone, videochat etc) and you are able to get in good habits of starting conversations in the real world with the people you most care about, then you will manage fine without Facebook.

    I fail on both counts, the first due to being in Canada, and the second due to having crap willpower! So I am on Facebook for the foreseeable future. I have another blog post coming out soon about why we stay on Facebook even when we hate it, it’s basically about the things it gives us that we can’t get anywhere else – easy sharing with real people, ambient photo sharing, etc. I’ll share it when it’s published.

    Ultimately I think Facebook is a unique form of communication, which unfortunately no other company offers.


    • I think those are all solid, respectable, honourable reasons for using Facebook. I’m not convinced they’re the main driving force that keeps people using it though. It has a system that is like crack cocaine to our brains, especially those with even slight narcissistic tendencies. This system is feedback – a reward system of “likes” and “comments” that reinforces the behaviour Facebook want you to have – that of publishing content. The more we publish, the more views Facebook gets and the more feedback we get. Like Pavlov’s dog, after a few cycles of this reinforcement, we do it again as we salivate for the feedback reward.

  4. I have a number of friends who use facebook to organise social events. I syndicate my facebook ical file to be visible in google calendar so I don’t view it directly.

    My twitter stream goes to facebook. Occasionally I have interesting comments from friends. All invites, comments and wallposts cause an email to me. If a friend generates too much noise I ‘ignore’ them (about 30% of my friend list is ignored.)

    I occasionally use the live chat system. I occasionally use facebook to message someone I don’t have an email for.

    All of these are useful to me, but I try and keep away from the time-sinks and personal-data-lamprey aspects.

  5. I don’t dispute that services like Facebook and Twitter are valuable, if a little addictive. I also don’t particularly hate Facebook, although it certainly isn’t my favourite site.
    I’m not convinced that there anything specific to Facebook that makes it a unique form of communication, except perhaps for one: it’s large population, and there are still plenty of people who don’t use Facebook. Very much looking forward to Alex’s next Facebook post. I should actually come clean and admit that even now I have a proxy Facebook user, so I hear a lot of what’s going on without logging on. Guess that is cheating a bit!
    As Alex points out in the other place* (as in Twitter, not anything parliamentary), the what-if discussions about what happens when silo services fail is interesting. Rumour of trouble for Delicious isn’t great (it’s a service I get a lot of value from) and I imagine that more connected services could fail fast, perhaps a bit like a rush on a bank and equally susceptible to speculation. What’s the value in Facebook if you’re the only one there? It is after all one in a long line of social networks.
    * shame these things are currently so disjointed. Definitely feels like we’re going through a bit of another AOL-like cycle, after a spell of better interoperability.
    Anyway, I still haven’t decided whether to really pull the plug, but any thoughts on pros and cons for different exit strategies?

  6. Make sure you check out the ‘download everything’ facebook feature. It has actually been of use to me to have it backed up on my laptop…

  7. Thanks for that link Andy, I’m almost inspired to dabble with some of those ideas. I had cooled to the idea of going ‘faceless’ after some useful connections and conversations on there recently, but think I may keep it as a medium term goal.
    On a related topic, the twitter lurker @howard_is mentioned another alternative at lunch this week: the freedom box (also mentioned here). (In contrast the E&T magazine was suggesting moving more out of the home, suggesting moving the home gateway to hardware in the exchange to reduce energy- maybe they’ll pass each other.) Got me thinking about guru plugs again after the recent minihack, and how a mesh of plugs might open up new possibilities.

  8. “The worthiness of a tiny, low-powered device that makes Facebook obsolete is matched only by its implausibility. We wish the Freedom Box well, but we won’t be buying any stock just yet.”

    Kinda reminds me of Opera. MInd you, that still has a few users knocking around… :-P

  9. Heh, I liked that quote as well, but as a local Metaverse Evangalist once said, “Every time I see something as stupid, I realize it’s the thing I should pay the most attention to”
    (And I’m sticking with Opera- been really impressed with the way it makes the most of Windows 7 recently, unlike Firefox for example.)

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