You might remember that my New Year’s resolution this year was to ask Facebook to delete all the data it had collected about me, and leave. Now, I only have Facebook’s word for it that it has complied with my request (I did try to sign in using my old email address last month and it no longer recognizes me), but other than that one quick check, I have thus far resisted any temptation to reconnect.
I’m not going to kid myself that Facebook doesn’t have some sort of “shadow” account about me, based on information provided by my friends and associates who still use Facebook (for example, pictures uploaded to the service by other people that have been tagged with my name). My vote to leave was one of protest; I was simply fed up with the data privacy and security scandals that erupted time and again with Facebook, which were very effectively covered by the New York Times and other news media. I had had enough.
So, you might ask: do I miss Facebook?
Surprisingly, the answer is “no”. I have found that my overall cellphone usage has dropped a fair bit in the past three months, as I no longer haul out Facebook just to see what’s up when I have a spare minute. The truth is, most of the people I was connected to on Facebook were what I would call acquaintance-level friends, or online connections whom I had never actually met in real life.
So, do I feel disconnected without Facebook?
This time, the answer is “maybe”, but I don’t really think that Facebook is to blame for that. I think I just was using Facebook as a sort of crutch to fool myself into believing that I was actually getting my social needs met, without really taking any sort of concrete action. Taking that crutch away has made me realize that, to a large extent, I have isolated myself too much in my many virtual worlds.
But the solution to that is not to rejoin Facebook; it is to reach out in real life to my family, friends, and acquaintances, restrengthen the weak ties within my existing social networks, and form new connections. Get out with my arts and entertainment group and take in a real-life play or concert. Go out for a walk with a friend. Make a dinner date with someone I haven’t spoken to in a long while, just to touch base.
I know many of you hesitate to leave Facebook because of FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out. I have discovered that there is a certain freedom in cutting the social media ties that bind us, and with that comes a certain serenity. (Turning off the near-endless political outrage machine that social media has become has had some immediate therapeutic effects!) I’m not saying my life is perfect—far from it!—but I am saying that I have found that there is life beyond Facebook. I just need to get out there and explore it a bit more.
And yes, I do know that Google, Amazon, and Twitter have just as much information collected about me (perhaps even more than Facebook), but my point was to take an active, symbolic stand against Facebook’s privacy abuses in particular, which I began to see as truly egregious. After a point, I decided that what I was getting out of my devil’s bargain with Facebook wasn’t worth what information I was feeding into that ecosystem.
Hey, it might be different for you. Everybody has to make their own decision on this one. But I can report that I’m happy with my decision so far. I’ll keep you posted 😉