I deleted my Facebook account last December. I have had it since May 2009, fresh out of university, when a friend made one for me and told me it was “absolutely necessary” that I have one. I had been a relatively active, happy poster since then, especially during my travels. Gotta post those travel pics and vids, y’all.
So what made me decide to delete it? The trigger was a December 18, 2018 New York Times article detailing how Facebook actively gave third parties access to our private messages. The news made me physically sick. I imagined prying eyes, maybe someone from Facebook or some other company perusing my messages to friends — new, old, lost — to lovers and ex lovers, to the occasional family member. It took everything I had not to hurl the contents of my stomach onto my bed.
However, I soon realized that Facebook had already been making me feel sick for a long time. I think it started during the 2016 Philippine elections, followed by the Brexit fiasco and Trump’s victory in the US elections. By that time Facebook had already been taken over by fake news and hate pages that seemed immune to all attempts to report their actions to the platform. At some point, I even began to believe Facebook was encouraging them because they still counted them as engagement.
And besides the political wars going on and the annoying News Feed that had long since stopped showing me content about people I actually cared about, I felt like Facebook was keeping me in a sort of social and identity stasis.
My friends list, roughly comprising 900 people, included people from various points in my history — no matter how strong or weak my emotional ties to them were. There were my actual friends (barely 20 percent of the aforementioned 900 people), people I met through my job as a lifestyle journalist, high school batchmates, college batchmates, former org-mates, gradschool batchmates, etc.
I realized that having them as a constant audience made me feel frozen in a way because of two things:
1) These people, no matter how much I changed or grew in real life, would always maintain their image of me back when we first met or when we were most present in each other’s life. I don’t blame them. It’s human nature. We grasp an idea of a person based on shared history and hold on to that for reference, especially when we stop seeing that person regularly.
2) Related to the previous point, I felt like being constantly on Facebook’s social life support was also chaining me to a sort of fixed identity. Was it the fact that photos and posts from 10 years ago were still present in my Timeline and that I was being constantly reminded of them by Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ feature? Was it that I was basically communicating with the same collection of people, no matter how thin our social connection, when normally those connections would naturally fade to give way to new people and situations?
I don’t know. What I am sure of is that Facebook, as well as 80 percent of my “Friends list,” had become irrelevant to me.
After I read the New York times article, I did not hesitate. I downloaded all my Facebook data and hit ‘Delete’. I made a back-up account that only a handful of people know about, but it doesn’t have any information about me – not my job, not the university I went to, not my real age — nothing. And I’ve mostly kept it deactivated.
I’ve gone two to three weeks without logging back in, and on days that I do, it only makes me question how that platform took such a large chunk of my life before. My friends barely even post anymore. Soon, I will delete this back-up account as well.
I believe that social media still has a place in society. I’m looking forward to a replacement for Facebook that’s more ethical, that won’t just take and give my information away because of targeted advertising, and whose interface would make me feel good about connecting with people again without grounding my identity.
Illustration via cliqz