Goodbye to Facebook

I am happy to say that I have already completed my first and only new year’s resolution this year: getting rid of my Facebook account.

It turned out to be much easier than expected, as there is a separate, easily accessible delete account page on Facebook. I just had to type my password and a captcha and that was it. Now my Facebook account is disabled, and will be permanently deleted after 14 days. What a relief!

There are several reasons why I wanted to get out of the whole thing:

Time: Although I haven’t used Facebook very actively over the last years (and not before that either), I have somehow felt the need for checking my account every once in a while. This does take up time, time that I would rather spend differently.

Private-professional confusion: While Facebook can certainly be interesting for both private and professional communication, I have become increasingly aware of the challenges with such a semi-open communication channel. The addition of multiple levels of friends, groups, networks, etc., a few years ago, has added to the confusion of who you are actually communicating with. In fact, it seems like Facebook deliberately wants to make the privacy settings difficult to use. Now what we have is a semi-closed platform that, at least to people that do not care so much about their settings, gives a false sense of privacy and safety. Adding to this comes the rapid nature of social media, people firing off comments at all times of the day, in all sorts of settings, and under different types of clarity of the mind. Not to mention that short, written messages is a very mono-modal communication type compared to direct human communication. The end result is that postings can be easily regretted. I have always had the idea that everything I publish on the web, including on so-called closed platforms, should be written in a way such that it can see daylight. Being Head of Department for almost a year now, I have become even more careful about how I use Facebook myself, and what I get to know about other people (including people whom I am in charge of as employer). All in all, this point in itself was sufficient enough for me wanting to get out.

Lack of openness: Another important point that many Facebook people seem to forget, is that there is still a lot of people that are not on Facebook (now also including myself). I have noticed that more and more companies and organisations use Facebook for communication, including the University of Oslo. While there is nothing wrong in spreading information in different channels, I am somewhat worried about spending too much time on communication in a closed and limited channel. Particularly when there are good and open alternatives available, like the rest of the web…

Web politics: I have been interested in issues of open (source) software, systems, and platforms for a long time, and see Facebook as one of the main challengers of an open internet. While I at first found Facebook fascinating and fun (I got my account when it was still only a university student network back in 2007), the enormous growth and recent commercial orientation is a big turndown. Particularly the idea of embedding everything inside one, closed, commercial platform I find problematic. The beauty of the world wide web, e-mail, file sharing, etc., is that they build on open standards and protocols. This means that anyone can (at least partly) read content on HTML pages, send e-mails, transfer files, etc., independently of the OS and software they use. The Facebook approach of building their own approach to “web pages”, “e-mail” and “chatting” inside a closed platform threatens the open channels.

Security politics: My last point may be the most important from a global, democratic perspective. The year 2013 brought the Snowden leaks and was a turning point for many people when it came to realise the scope of global surveillance. Obviously, social platforms like Facebook are extremely interesting since they not only contain information about ourselves and our interests, but also all the information about our networks.

All in all, there were many reasons why I wanted to get out of Facebook. I have been thinking about it for several years, but now finally did it. Fortunately, as they write on Digitaltrends: “Deleting your Facebook account doesn’t have to mean you’ll drop off the face of the Earth.”