Welp, for the 50th time in recent memory, Facebook has screwed up - admitting that they accidentally let Cambridge Analytica scrape a ton of personal user data they shouldn't have had access to, and then use it after promising to delete it. In light of this, there's been a renewed call for users to delete their Facebook accounts and swear off the social media behemoth once and for all. The problem with all of this is how completely unrealistic it is - keep in mind that big movements built around deleting Facebook are nothing new, and always fade away. That happens for a reason. Several reasons, actually!
1. You're just going to come crawling back and it's gonna be pathetic
Facebook is more than just a simple website at this point - it's become an ingrained part of our lives and the entire experience of being on the internet. People long ago stopped predicting it would be another MySpace - a flash-in-the-pan fad social network whose userbase could up and disappear, flocking to the next big thing - because Facebook was much, much smarter about how deeply it oozed its way into every corner of the web, and how it hooked its users.
Facebook is addictive by nature - and its been engineered to a shocking degree. Each feature that Facebook rolls out is designed to keep you on their platform just a litttttle bit longer than you normally would, and the net result is that people are constantly checking Facebook. Here's what Sean Parker (Facebook's first president) had to say about it:
"The thought process was all about, 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?' And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever, and that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you more likes and comments. It's a social validation feedback loop. ... You're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."
That's why the whole idea of "leaving Facebook" has become something of a joke or a meme unto itself - no one can stay away for too long, because we're all addicts, whether we admit it or not.
Even if you are able to muster up the courage to permanently delete your account, odds are after a few hours or days, you'll come crawling back once you realize what a major part Facebook had in your life, and you'll have to make a pathetic post about how you're back (but are going to be more careful with your data) and then ask everyone to spread the word so you don't have to suffer the indignity of refriending all of the your former connections individually.
2. Facebook makes it harder than you'd think
First off, it's not easy to even find the OPTION to delete your account - the normal assumption is that it would be located under user settings, but Facebook sneakily has only left options to deactivate your account (aka temporarily remove yourself from the platform) and to delete your account AFTER YOU DIE:
Hell, the only way to actually find the option to delete your Facebook account ON Facebook is by clicking on the Help icon and typing in "delete" (since there doesn't appear to be any way of navigating to a 'delete my account' option from the dropout they provide):
The point is that they don't want users being able to casually stumble upon this option - it needs to be hidden (to a degree) in order to give people the impression that the only option is deactivation, not deletion (although here's a direct link to the delete option, if you want that).
If you're serious about deleting your Facebook account (and I really mean that - "DELETING", not "deactivating", which is the coward's move), Facebook isn't going to make this a simple process for you. And not really even by making you jump through a bunch of hoops and going through a bunch of different pages, but simply by allowing Facebook's addictive nature to do its work. Here's the link to Facebook's "How do I permanently delete my account?" page, which reads:
If you don't think you'll use Facebook again, you can request to have your account permanently deleted. Please keep in mind that you won't be able to reactivate your account or retrieve anything you've added. Before you do this, you may want to download a copy of your info from Facebook. Then, if you'd like your account permanently deleted with no option for recovery, log into your account and let us know.
When you delete your account, people won't be able to see it on Facebook. It may take up to 90 days from the beginning of the deletion process to delete all of the things you've posted, like your photos, status updates or other data stored in backup systems. While we are deleting this information, it is inaccessible to other people using Facebook.
Some of the things you do on Facebook aren't stored in your account. For example, a friend may still have messages from you even after you delete your account. That information remains after you delete your account.
Did you read that carefully? First of all, you can't just "delete" your account - you have to REQUEST to have your account deleted. You don't actually have control over your profile or your data - Facebook does (and has for many, many years now). You have to ask them nicely to let you scrub their website of your existence, because that's the deal you made with them when you approved of the updated terms & conditions.
That's not to say they're likely to turn down your request. No, Facebook doesn't bother with that - because they know they don't have to deal with that kind of bad look PR, as they can just let your own human nature give them what they want. See, they say it could take "up to 90 days" to actually delete your information...and if you attempt to use Facebook in any way during that 90 day period, it can interrupt the process and force you to start over, extending the deletion period even longer. Even logging in by mistake (through the app or single-sign-in on another site or app) can cause everything to start over. And Facebook knows the longer they drag out that process, the more likely you are to give up and just accept you are beholden to Mark Zuckerberg until the end of time.
3. You have to basically disengage from EVERY website/app that collects data for this to mean anything - and you're not going to do that
Do you honestly believe Facebook is unique in terms of its data collection methods? Because...it's not. Not even close.
Everything you do online is being tracked - by Facebook, by third party advertisers, by Amazon, by Google, by everyone and anyone...and the vast majority of people have no idea that it's happening, or how to stop it. Hell, even people who think they know how to stop it don't actually realize how much every action they take is being tracked and sorted. It was recently revealed that Google collects Android users' locations....even when location services on their phones are disabled.
Data collection is the entire reason behind Google's suite of free, convenient, wonderful-to-use products - from Gmail to Google Docs to Google Maps. Ever wonder how they could afford to just GIVE AWAY all of these high quality products, based on expensive software and algorithms that required constant maintenance and massive amounts of storage? Because you're the actual product. Google made over $73 BILLION in 2017 alone in its advertising sales business - a business entirely built on the idea that Google would be able to target ads the most effectively, as they had the most thorough information and understanding of internet users and their behavior.
So why don't more people disengage from Google/Amazon/Microsoft/Apple/every social network? Because those sites form a much more meaningful part of society than they used to. So much socialization happens across social networks - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The internet has made us more connected in incredible ways - as a semi-new-ish father, it's been awesome to instantly have access to huge forums offering advice on kids, answering questions, and making recommendations...all available instantly.
The idea of never using Google (for search, for documents, for maps, for email....) or any social network means basically removing yourself from a major part of society, and can have a majorly isolating effect. While it can definitely have lots and lots (and lots) of positive mental health effects to keep the time you actually spend on social media sites to a minimum, leaving them entirely and cutting yourself off from the biggest sites on the internet could leave you at a massive social disadvantage if others in your social groups aren't doing the same.
In other words, you're going to miss out on a bunch of stuff and get some crazy FOMO right away. You'll either commit to your new life as a digital hermit (and hopefully find some positive ways of connecting with people IRL) or you'll wind up back on the same sites as before, except feeling a little more defeated. And that's the way, way, way more likely option.
4. You'll have nowhere to post about how much Facebook sucks
Seriously - where are you gonna post updates about how much you hate Facebook or share news stories about how evil Facebook is if you delete Facebook?
Twitter? Maybe you'll get a few likes there, but you don't have that many followers and everyone else is pretty busy freaking out about Trump or sharing Spongebob memes.
Snapchat? No one uses Snapchat anymore, dummy.
Instagram? If you're not posting stolen tweets or yourself on vacation, no one cares. Also, Facebook and Instagram are owned by the same people.
5. You'll miss my good posts
I post good stuff all the time, you don't want to miss that, right?
6. You're better off compromising and just trying to use Facebook as safely as possible
The reality is that no one can stay off of Facebook for long - on top of being addictive, it's simply how a lot of people keep in touch. People don't email every contact they have updates about their life or pictures from a vacation - they post them on Facebook, and then assume anyone who cares will be able to see it. It's become part of the social fabric, and not something that can be easily tossed aside. And hell, it's the only way for plenty of people to maintain a social life, look for work, tell people they're safe when a disaster is happening, and more.
Luckily, there are numerous guides by seasoned internet privacy experts that can walk you through everything you SHOULD be doing to keep your data as secure as possible. While it legitimately does require constant, exhausting vigilance to stop Facebook and Google and everyone else from over-reaching their data collection schemes by altering their T&C on a frequent basis, it's just another unfortunate necessity of modern living. Anyways, here are a few guides:
Or, of course, you could actually try deleting Facebook and just sticking to it. But don't come crying to me when you miss out on me retitling every single Goosebumps book ever.