Why You Should Leave Facebook (And How to Do It)

Published on Author Eli Fennell

As most people know by now, Facebook has been up to its old tricks again, making drastic, anti-competitive changes to their user’s accounts in the dead of night, with no meaningful warning, and no guidelines as to how to undo the changes (leaving that, of course, to the blogosphere to do for them).  But, hey, they’re just doing it to improve your experience, right?  And if you believe that, talk to me about this nice little bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you for the right price.

Not only did they overwrite your default email contact with your Facebook email address (you know, the one you didn’t want and never used?), a decision which also (often without any easy to fix it) overwrote your email lists for the people in your phone contacts if you synced with Facebook (or at least, many users experienced this, but not all).  Rest assured, the latter was just an “accident”, a really, really annoying, subtle, and hard-to-fix accident.  Oopsie.  Mea culpa I’m sure they’d say.

They may also have deleted your political preference if it was anything but the usual conservative/liberal dichotomy.  But of course, that was just a “bug”, a conveniently specific bug that just happened to be a perfect excuse for you to identify by a common political demographic that can easily be sold to advertisers.  The accidents and coincidences do abound, don’t they?  Jungian synchronicity, I suppose.

If, like me, you’re not buying the hogwash non-apology they’re not really trying very convincingly to sell you, you might feel like now is the perfect time to delete your Facebook account.

But all my friends are there! I hear your mind protest.  Are they, really?  There and nowhere else?  If they’re really your friends, then there will be no harm in trying a little experiment to prove it, right?

Announce that you will be deleting your Facebook account.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually do that yet, a short de-activation period will suffice, your “friends” won’t know the difference.  If you’re on another social network (Google+, Diaspora, etc…), tell them you can be reached there.  Give them the email address you’d like them to contact you at.  Give them your phone number.  Give them your IM info.  Get theirs.

In short, make sure they know how to contact you, and you know how to contact them, outside of Facebook.

Then deactivate your account.  See how many of them go to the social network you’re at, how many of them call or text or Instant Message, how many of them email.  See how many answer your calls, texts, emails, etc…  Compare that to how much time they “kept in touch” with you, and everyone else, on Facebook.  Do this for at least a month.

Feeling a little lonely and unloved after this?  Well, sorry to break it to you, but it may be that your “friends” just aren’t that into you.  It may just turn out that they only “like” you as long as that “Like” button is within easy reach.  They might even come to resent you for asking them to put any effort into keeping in touch with you personally, and not just as part of the crowd.

I had a mom.  I suspect most of you did, too, or some sort of parental-type figure.  What would they have told you if you told them all of your “friends” would only spend time with you somewhere that was unsafe and made you feel uncomfortable?  Probably some cliches along the lines of _and if all your friends were jumping off a bridge?_ and _a real friend would respect your feelings_.  Did I just undermine your entire concept of friendship?  I hope not, because if I did, that means your concept of friendship is now defined by the whims of Facebook’s indifferent (if not actively malicious) algorithms.

Why should you leave Facebook?  If you’ve even considered it, you’ve probably got good reasons, and you probably know or strongly suspect what those reasons are.  You also know, deep down inside, even if Zuckerberg has made you forget, that real friendship isn’t defined by a particular place or activity.  Those with whom your connection is so limited aren’t really your friends, or aren’t very close ones at any rate.  One of the lessons I was taught growing up, and its wisdom grows in me by the day, is in life you are lucky, lucky, to have four or five true lifelong friends.  The rest will come and go throughout your life, and you will survive.  This too shall pass, as the old saying goes; a.k.a. “nothing lasts forever”.

And do you really need to know everything about your friends that you probably learn from Facebook?  Let’s be honest, it can be hard to tell the difference between what’s considered normal “keeping up with the people you know” on Facebook, and what used to be called stalking.

But they went to the park today with their kids, I just have to see pictures of their son on the slide or I’m not a good friend!  Really?  Is that really what friendship is about?

But my grandma keeps up with me through Facebook!  Ah, so now we know why you haven’t called her for so long, don’t we?

But how will my old classmates I haven’t heard from in years find me?  They probably won’t.  C’est la vie as the French (many of whom, ironically, are now Facebookers) like to say.  People come and go out of our lives, you can’t hold onto all of them or keep up with all of them, and shouldn’t feel the need to.  Besides, there might be a reason you didn’t keep in touch in the first place that time has made you forget.

I promise you, there is both life and friendship A.F.B. (After Facebook), as there was B.F.B. (I think you can guess what that one means).  Before you say the same was true of phones, and email, etc… but those things helped us keep in touch, isn’t Facebook the same?, because I hear some of you thinking it… the short answer is no.  The long answer is hell no!  Phones work across services.  Ditto email.  You could switch phone numbers, phone companies, email addresses, email providers, and nothing need change.

Can the same be said for Facebook?  Certainly not… and that’s exactly what the Facebook Corporation counts on, that they’ve trapped you with no escape.  This shows only too well when you go to deactivate your account and it randomly throws up pictures of your friends with the message, “(X Person) will miss you if you leave!”  To which my response was always, “Not if they keep in touch, and if they don’t, then they didn’t miss me all that much, now did they?”

But Facebook helped me through a hard time!  I can sympathize, and I have a similar tale to tell, but leaving doesn’t mean you’re forgetting the good things, just that it’s no longer worth it.  Remembering the good times will only go so far with something you’re no longer comfortable with.

But my job requires I use Facebook!  …okay, you’ve got me there, if your job really does require it, then you have to use it.  I’ll give you a pass.  But that’s a rare case that someone has to use Facebook for work, and even so, you’re still not required to use it on your own time.

Another reason to leave Facebook?  To meet new people!  There’s wisdom in the Eastern teachings about how cluttering one’s life with possessions or even other people leaves little room for new things, possibly better things, to enter.  At one time most people lived in small towns, and some thought it inconceivable that they could find true friendship in the big city among strangers.

Not only was it possible to make friends among strangers but, as many discovered, there can be more reward in forming connections based on commonalities deeper than geography, in many cases.  Birds of a feather flock together.  Since leaving Facebook I’ve made more friends in real life, and also on other social networks like Google+, with people who once were strangers.  Sometimes a stranger really is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

I left Facebook, gradually in stages but I did it nonetheless, and for most people, the gradual approach probably won’t work, so it’s best just to do it Cold Turkey.  Announce your departure (preferably with more tact than I used) to your Facebook friends, take what time is necessary to try to ensure you can still keep in touch with anyone you’d want to keep in touch with, and then pull the trigger, all at once, and don’t look back.

_But how do I delete my account?_ you ask?  Fair question, since Facebook doesn’t exactly point a big red arrow at the option to do this.  And you may not want to leave “empty handed”.  After all, you might have information on there you want to take with you.

For example, if you want to import your friend’s birthdays, you can import them into Google Calendar using this guide. http://howto.cnet.com/8301-11310_39-20114565-285/how-to-import-facebook-birthdays-to-google-calendar/

You might also want to export their email contacts (those which haven’t been overwritten, at least; rather convenient how that makes this process more difficult, isn’t it?).  Simply set up, or use an existing, Yahoo! email account for this with the following guide: http://7terabyte.blogspot.com/2012/06/export-email-addresses-of-your-facebook.html

You might also want to export your own information, such as images and videos.  Here’s Facebook’s own help center guide to do this (and what is included): http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=116481065103985

Lastly, you might want to delete all of your information.  Timeline makes it much easier, ironically, than it used to be to remove all of your previous status updates, and you can also (if you like) delete your traces (comments, Likes, etc…) elsewhere (they should become unidentifiable after the deletion is complete, anyways, but you might want to remove them yourself).

Now, if you’ve done whatever needed to be done to prepare, here’s how you pull the trigger, by following this guide: http://www.wikihow.com/Permanently-Delete-a-Facebook-Account

Once you’ve done it, and are ready to move on and not look back, let your account remain inactivate for 14-days, two weeks, and it will be gone (there are some issues that can override this, so it’s best to clear your internet cache on any browser you’ve signed into Facebook with: Google+ “Power User” Linda Lawrey explains some of these issues, and how to deal with them here).

I left Facebook, and I survived, and I will never go back.  I don’t miss it, and I think neither will you, if you give it a try.  Just try de-activating, for a while, if you’re not yet sure, and see how that goes.  If it turns out you can’t go without your Facebook fix, you can always go back, and if it turns out you don’t miss it, or don’t miss it very much, or actually prefer life A.F.B., then you can take the final steps of deletion, as outlined here and elsewhere.

Facebook is re-defining what friendship means, in ways that many feel are unwholesome, and driven purely by profit motive rather than what is actually best for users.  It can also be an incredible waste of time.  Only you can decide if it’s worth it, but don’t let the fear of lost friendship stand in your way.  You’ll find, if you overcome that fear, that there really was nothing to fear but the fear itself.

I love technology and how it changes our lives. There’s something almost spiritual about how new technologies connect and empower us. And it’s really cool, too.