Leaving Facebook

1 minute read

Recently, on Mastodon someone posted a link to a blog post by Aaron Parecki that dealt with how he left Facebook. Taken into consideration along with the recent WhatsApp privacy debacle, I thought that 2021 was the perfect time for me to finally make the break from Facebook and its services. In this post, I want to go through the why and the how of my exodus from Facebook and the services it owns.

First, let’s go through the why. I think it’s pretty much accepted at this time that Facebook harvests and sells user data. Their service is free to users and the way they make money from it is clearly by selling your data to marketers and other companies that pay for it. Now, many of you might be more than happy with this, and that’s just fine. It’s your data after all, so you’re welcome to share it with whomever you want, and I won’t try to convince you otherwise. But, at the same time, I as a user am also allowed to choose not to sell my data and to instead embrace a service that respects me as a user or a service that I can host and control, myself.

It really just boils down to being given the choice to cede control over your personal data or not. And in the case of Facebook I feel we no longer have that choice. A few years ago when WhatsApp was bought by Facebook, users were given a choice whether to share that data at least, even if the choice was only a one-time chance to opt out and hidden deep in several menus. The recent policy change that WhatsApp has enacted no longer gives users any choice in the matter. And that’s where I draw the line.

As to the how of leaving Facebook, I followed most of the steps in Aaron Parecki’s post that I’ve linked above. Essentially what I did was this:

  1. I deleted all my old posts and status messages from when I started my account in 2007.
  2. I deleted all the photos I’ve posted.
  3. I removed myself from as many groups as possible.
  4. I went through all the sections of my profile and cleared out any remaining data such as likes, unused apps, etc.
  5. I posted a final message on Facebook detailing alternative ways to get hold of me, as well the federated alternatives I’m currently using.

This way, anyone who needs to stay in touch with me can. I’m happy with the combination of federated social networks I’m on as well as using Signal and iMessage for all my chats with friends and family.

Facebook’s greatest triumph has been that they’ve managed to make most of us blasé about who controls our data. I realise that for many people Facebook is a lifeline in these recent years to stay in touch with friends and family during difficult times, and anyone who wants to can keep using Facebook. I’m not here to judge or force people to move off Facebook. All I want is for people to be aware that there are plenty of decent alternatives out there and that their personal data is something they should protect, rather than just giving away for free to a large corporation.