Kicking the Facebook habit and surviving social withdrawal.

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Facebook Habit

Tomorrow my account will be officially deleted from Facebook. I submitted an official delete request 13 days ago and tomorrow the mandatory ‘don’t log in for 14 days’ rule required by Facebook for account deletion submissions will expire. By tomorrow evening I will be officially rid of Facebook for good.

The past 13 days since I submitted my account deletion request have been a truly fascinating experience. Here is why.

This was not a rash, spur of the moment decision. My choice to leave Facebook was pre-meditated and rational and had been so for some time. I found further inspiration and support from the BBC series Virtual Revolution which addressed important issues regarding user privacy and security among social networking sites. The show encouraged me to delve deeper and think hard about why, under all the gloss and ‘hipster-hype’, social networking sites exist; aside from providing a service entirely for end-user benefit.

When you strip away the gloss, what I believe Facebook actually is is a marketer’s dream. The largest golden marketing egg in the world even and we, the end user, are more than willing to hand over our data without hesitation. Let’s look at this from another angle. If Facebook was an unknown entity in the guise of a junk mail survey letter mailed to millions the world over and asking the same questions as those asked to complete your ‘profile’, would you fill it in and mail it back? Of course you wouldn’t! It would go straight in the trash! So why do we not apply this rule to Facebook or any other social networking sites for that matter? Taking the aforementioned in to account a quick search brought up many articles questioning Facebook on their user privacy practices and gungho changes to their terms and conditions. My stance reading this changed from happy Facebook user to WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!? RUN AWAY NOW!

Using a phrase such as “I quit Facebook” really does make you sound pathetic. I mean come on, really, are we that shallow? Are we that reliant on social networking today that we forgive handing over all of our personal data and intimate thoughts to the current ‘in’ site(s) in order to connect with our friends or tell the world we’re a fan of the Leamington Spa leisure centre, or discuss the joys of Biro pens with green ink in them with like-minded groups of individuals? What does user privacy and data protection mean to us today? We happily submit our information to social networking sites but cry foul at receiving junk mail and data leaks!

Since submitting my account deletion request I’ve had several people in the real world ask me why I was ‘giving up’ Facebook. I find this baffling that my decision to remove myself from a website should provoke such a response. I’ve also been a little hypocritical as I have opened a Twitter account (albeit last year but I never used it) and have been ‘tweeting’ in earnest all week. That said, I have been very choosy with whom I ‘follow’ and who follows me. I admire that Twitter requires less user data from the individual in order to participate however my main admiration of Twitter is both in it’s simplicity and it’s restrictiveness.

Restricting ‘tweets’ to 140 chars or less and introducing tagging requires more thought from the author. Nobody wants to read status updates every 5 minutes along the lines of USER X: “I am drinking cola and watching Barney Miller on TV” followed by USER X: “Oh my God we have no potato chips in the kitchen!”. Okay maybe some people do still want to read/create this kind of tripe and said tripe will always form a significant portion of content posted, but I feel a lot of micro-blog entries of this ilk have left Twitter yet remain on Facebook. I’ll make it clear, my Twitter account is primarily for my blog, not to let everyone know I like vegetable samosas and that my favourite show on TV is Banacek.

Social withdrawal

I was never a heavy user of Facebook, admittedly I would check my account more than once per day but not for hours at a time. I admit that for the first two to three days I did feel a temptation (albeit a small one) to log in again to ‘check’ my account. I have no idea what I wanted to ‘check’, maybe I was seeking assurance that I was not missing out on anything? Maybe that same thought is what tempts users back to Facebook thereby forfeiting the 14 day ‘keep out and stay out’ rule which, after so many times being reset to day 1 forces users to admit defeat and keep their accounts open. And let’s be honest about this, what is the real reason for the 14 day wait? Why are we unable to just delete our account straight away? Or at the very least given a choice between deleting our account immediately and choosing a 14 day cooling off period? It all smacks of shadiness to me. I cannot actually think of one site off the top of my head that employs the same method for account deletion.

The bottom line for me is I am now on the verge of being Facebook-free, permanently. I am a Facebook pariah and proud of it (even if after proofing this article it feels like a completely unnecessary but at the same time totally necessary declaration. That statement makes sense I promise).

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