We are fast approaching the 1-year anniversary of my own personal #DeleteFacebook campaign. I’ve wanted to write an update to my original article for a while, and I find the worldwide prevalence this past month to be the perfect time to reflect on the past year.
One of the catalysts for this sudden explosion is, of course, the realization that Cambridge Analytica had data on ~50M Americans and used it to help the 2016 Trump campaign. Facebook’s role in this follows their documented history of providing a LOT of user data to developers on the platform. Remember that pop-up box you saw when you started playing Farmville? The one that asked for your and all of your friends’ information… Yep. Granted, I’m as guilty as anyone; I have, over the course of my life, installed a fair share of Facebook apps and effectively sold my friends’ data in exchange for “free” access to some game/software (the name of which I can’t even remember now). I would go so far as to say that this cavalier attitude towards user data is one of the main reasons that Facebook is the company that it is today.
My concerns when deleting my own Facebook account were less about the privacy risks and more about wanting to be purposeful in my relationships. Since that time, I’ve taken a number of steps in that direction:
- I make it a point to call or visit with friends and family at regular intervals, especially with those whom I don’t often see in-person (or at all).
- I continue to encourage the use of rich-media chat apps (I use Telegram) as a means of communication that allow for voice, location, and read-receipts (all things you have when talking in-person).
- I approach new friend/work relationships knowing that I won’t be able to snoop around their Facebook to learn about them. I’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way: by engaging with them directly and with purpose.
With these steps in mind, I wanted to note a few of the observations I’ve had in the past almost-year:
- I don’t suffer from the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) near as much as I used to. There are twinges of wanting to post something to Facebook (purely for the likes) but they are fleeting. I will admit that I have posted things to Twitter in trying to get that “hit” but because the audience is so different when compared to Facebook, it’s almost impossible. And I’m OK with that.
- I find more productive things to do with my time. Sometimes it’s only slightly more than Facebook: HackerNews.
- I feel more engaged with friends and family because there are more things to discuss in-person: all the things I would’ve read about them on Facebook.
- People like when you express an interest in them personally. This is probably obvious but it’s what I’ve noticed, just the same. It’s kind of weird to call people directly, especially those who you don’t see much, but they really seem to enjoy when you take a specific interest. In particular, I’ve tried to call ex-co-workers to find out how they’ve been.
There are ways in which I do still feel cut off. I will have no idea of changes in relationship, career, location, or otherwise unless I keep up directly and often or they feel the desire to tell me directly. That’s OK, because that’s what I’m after: purpose in relationships. As noted, I haven’t completely tossed technology as a tool; I use Telegram daily in a way similar to that of a social media idea my Dad and I had a few years back:
The design was such that each user could create the “circles”, but with the express purpose of cultivating closer relationships. For example, you might create a circle containing a small number (<10) of workmates, all of whom were willing and active participants (as opposed to passersby). This contrasted against the swarms (>1500) I’ve seen people cultivate on Facebook, some for the sole wish to have the most “friends”. Granted, there are contexts where this kind of “people collecting” makes sense. Someone who has their personality as a brand (e.g. Wes Bos, Jeff Atwood) might need to engage in this way. But one of the issues is that we’ve ALL become brands (whether we want to be or not) and feel the need to sell ourselves.
I’ve been able to quasi-create that using Telegram: We have groups for our family (which at 15 direct members/spouses necessitates a breaking of the 10-member limit), as well as for interests (#geek), activities (#gaming), and health (#fitness). They tend to be small and less active when compared to Facebook, but because of that we’re able to keep the randomness to a minimum. Announcements, coordination of events, pictures, and other personal things are all shared to the others in the group. We’re also free to be more personal because we know exactly who will (and won’t: everyone else) see the messages. Not an assurance that’s available on Facebook.
Who knows? Perhaps I’ve failed in that I didn’t drop Facebook and then write a novel or release an app. And there are certainly friends, some of whom I can think of even now, who I haven’t talked to or seen since then (I’m sorry!). But they are on my mind. And now I know that when I do reach out to them, it will have been on purpose. And that’s what I’m aiming for.