10 minute read.
First published in Medium April 2018.
Warning: You may be uncomfortable with this article. It could lead to unexpected bouts of awareness, realisation, actualisation and an increased understanding of the digital reality. Apologies in advance.
I respect your reasons and why you believe deleting your Facebook account is the best option.
I’ve had a lot of friends lately announce they are deleting their Facebook (“FB”) account. I’ve considered the same! Their reasons appear to fall into three main categories, but there are lots of variations and other reasons. Are these driven by facts, fake news (is that even real?), or backyard science?
If it is ok, what I would like to do here is three things:
1. Validate your reasons for deleting your account;
2. Raise awareness around why deleting your FB account won’t necessarily solve the problem;
3. Outline some alternatives.
I’ll do this through examining three* main reasons that I have observed about why people may feel they need to get off FB:
a. Surveillance and data, privacy breaches;
c. Being annoyed/triggered by people’s posts and comments.
(* If I have missed covering your personal reason, please let me know)
In summary, deleting an FB account won’t delete your data and FB only represents a very small amount of the data known and collected about you. The reality is, unless we all become covert specialists, or hide in the forest, there is no way to escape massive amounts of data being collected every day. FB is literally and only the tip of the iceberg.
Vaccinations were created to face the reality that we can’t stop exposure to disease, but we can inoculate against some diseases. Similarly with life today, we may not be able to prevent exposure, but we can inoculate ourselves against some of the impacts of the massive data collection and manipulation.
One of the best disease prevention methods has been education and awareness (e.g. wash your hands with soap). The main purpose of this article is to raise awareness and another follow-up article will delve into preventative strategies.
Let’s consider some of the reasons why people want to delete their FB account…
Did you bring your umbrella?
First, I just want to bring up that thing that happens to many people.
You know this story…
You wake up in the morning, it is sunny. You leave the house and sometime later that day it rains, heavy rain, and you left your umbrella at home.
I’ve done this many times and when I check the weather forecast afterwards it was always going to rain. There was a strong predictive and known chance that it would rain.
But I didn’t check the weather forecast before I left. It was sunny outside.
Hold that thought and I will come back to it.
Surveillance and data, privacy breaches
FB has exposed your data. True fact. Since at least 2010, we can safely say that FB has been ‘Openbook’. As famously revealed by Edward Snowden and others, some government agencies have had the ability to fully access any FB account at anytime. I hope you knew that already because it made worldwide headlines in 2013. But that was five years ago and I understand that you may have missed it. Or perhaps you missed the Facebook posts for many years prior to 2013 discussing it. Oh, that’s right! It was just a ‘conspiracy’ theory. Well, here is a tip — not all conspiracy theories are untrue even if they aren’t worldwide headlines until years or decades afterwards.
So in case you missed all that, recently (Mar/Apr 2018) there has been a lot of media reports and fuss about organisations like Cambridge Analytica and FB enabling the exposure of private data of hundreds of millions of people.
The fact is, even though was well known over 12 months ago, but as usual no one seemed to take much notice. It did the rounds on FB being shared by many people and few seemed to take any notice. It is unclear why so many people are worried now and ignored it last year. Did you miss my many posts about it? Even if you were not on FB, it was revealed through many reputable media outlets since early 2017.
Here’s a tip. If something is exposed publicly, and then people only “hear” about it and take notice 12 months later, then something else is at play. Same information, different public response but with a 12 month time delay.
Did you remember your umbrella? It was always going to rain. The weather forecast said it would. Much the same way that almost 10 years ago we knew that FB data was not private. Just because you didn’t check the weather forecast it doesn’t mean it wasn’t going to rain.
So if you have been thinking all this time your FB data was private, then you simply did not check the weather forecast.
Let’s keep this one short.
At what stage did you not realise that FB is one of the most genius business models ever devised?
Yes of course there is advertising. It is their entire business model. Selling you and your data is the FB business model. It is genius!
It is like the nirvana of marketing. Advertising on TV is like a scatter gun approach. Shoot the advertisement out there and hope like hell that a 21 year old university student living in Sydney on an income of $21,000 per year who likes cats and votes Left etc etc will randomly see your advertisement at 8.30pm between episodes of their favourite show.
Clearly anyone that thinks that FB is some benevolent free social networking tool is either naive or living under a rock.
I’m sorry, if you didn’t realise you were operating within a living and breathing survey tool for the sole purpose of selling you to the highest bidder. You are the social experiment.
Annoyed, Triggered, Outraged!
How do you feel when someone “steals” your parking spot when you’ve been patiently indicating and waiting for another vehicle to move out?
How do you feel when your housemate leaves dirty dishes in the sink for days on end?
How do you feel when someone mocks your well-considered and thought out views of diversity, fairness, equity and humanity?
Were you the bully at school or the bullied?
One of the biggest challenges we face today is not only that we believe we are right, we feel that we have a right to be right and any opinion contrary to ours is an abomination.
But I’m probably wrong, and you are right, so I completely understand why you didn’t bring your umbrella.
When it starts raining, and I realise I didn’t bring my umbrella (even though the weather forecast said it would rain), I have to re-frame.
Will the water hurt me? I had a shower this morning and everything turned out ok. The rain might not be warm, but I know it won’t kill me. The umbrella would have given me some protection from the inconvenience of getting wet, but it is not the end of the world.
But torrential rain and flooding can be lethal, and an umbrella won’t help you or anyone else.
Getting triggered, outraged or annoyed about words on FB isn’t going to help. Your article length reply to a right wing fascist is unlikely to change them — in fact, you are supporting them and giving away even more data about yourself.
There are some not very nice humans out there. FB has helped us realise this quicker and more deeply than our pre-FB existence allowed us to potentially realise. You can choose to ignore the problem, but it doesn’t mean it won’t exist.
Peace is often brokered through negotiation, acceptance, understanding and compromise. Your other option is complete genocide of any views that oppose your own.
During the Trump election campaign, I chose to keep the “friends” that held opposing views because I wanted to understand how and why they believed what they did to specifically avoid living in an echo bubble. It is quite probable that the people you dislike most on FB are people who want exactly what you want — to live in an echo chamber of only their own world view. If you don’t want to be like them, then listen to them. Don’t ignore them or shut them out.
So it may come as a surprise that through FB you have come to see more of what your fellow humans are like than you expected. I’m sorry that happened. It was inevitable and if it wasn’t FB it would be something else. It was always going to rain. And it will rain tomorrow.
If you want to live in a FB bubble that only reflects your personal view of the world, then the options and settings are there for you to actively weed out every single person, group, page, advertisement that doesn’t align with your world view. Unfortunately the same features are more difficult to configure for the rest of your existence in the world, but some people do that quite successfully and I respect their right to their bubble. And I respect the fact that you don’t respect mine. It is ok.
Why deleting your FB account is only the tip of the iceberg
Let’s start with your Facebook account and why you can never really delete it fully. These are brief bullet points and hopefully they don’t need too much explanation:
So in summary, you can’t delete the past, but you can prevent FB having your future data.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg and more data is collected about you collectively from other sources.
Your data is everywhere, it is being collected and used
Consider if you have or do any of the following (this is a brief list):
Do you have a phone?
Reward or loyalty card?
Have you ever paid a bill?
Have you seen a doctor?
Do you have a job, study or neither?
Do you have email
Do you vote?
Do you use Siri or a home speaker?
Do you have an internet connected TV?
Do you use a streaming service (e.g. Netflix)?
Do you have a face and/or eyes?
Collectively this represents far more data than what FB knows about you. It is collected, shared and sold. It is cross referenced and then used to monitor you and target you for advertising, special offers and the threat you may pose to society. It is used to manipulate you.
If you can eradicate at least all of the above, you will be able to protect many aspects of your privacy. You can’t delete the past, but you might be able to achieve some of your intent to protect your future privacy (but not much).
Can I ever be private?
Unless you have special training in digital anonymity and acquire a range of false identities, you will not be able to go “off the grid”. Unless you live completely off the grid — literally, and never interact with anyone ever gain.
I’m sorry, it started happening when you were born and particularly since 1948.
In fact, you actually wanted this and have been demanding your privacy to be compromised for years. It is like being offered your favourite meal for free only to discover later on it was made by slave labour, at the cost of the environment, your privacy and freedom.
You didn’t check the weather forecast. I’m sorry.
But it is not too late and if you really are interested in your privacy, and keen to do more than simply delete your FB account, then consider these options:
If not, that is ok, then learn to be comfortable living in a world where your privacy is evaporating by the hour.
Disclosure: The author has no shares in Facebook and doesn’t plan to delete their account this week. But a smart person would have known that unless Mark was dud, the share price would rise after his testimony and made a shit load of money in the share price hike afterwards. Did you bring your umbrella?