Leaving Facebook

I don’t make a secret of the fact that I don’t like Facebook. Where others find it playful, I find it intrusive and annoyingly attention-seeking. I don’t like its attitudes towards content ownership and privacy. I particularly don’t like its sense of self-importance, and the greedy way it tries to assume control of my social graph. It’s not that I don’t want to connect with my friends over social networks, but I want it to be on my terms, not theirs.

Additionally, whenever you’re dealing with a company that handles anything of value to you (with banks it’s money, with Facebook and Google it’s personal data), you have to weigh up the trust you have to place in them against the benefit you expect to receive. Google passes that test for me (for now), but I don’t trust Facebook not to try and screw me over.

What happens when you try to leave Facebook is emblematic of this. Here’s the page you get when you try to disable your account:

Facebook's disable account page

Asking me to confirm that I want to deactivate my account is appropriate. Using my social connections in a clear attempt to trigger an emotional response that will keep me on the service is absolutely not.

“Your 32 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you” is nonsense. I assume that since they know how to use a web browser, they’re reasonably familiar with a computer, and probably have an email account they can use to reach me.

Below that, they display a random selection of my Facebook contacts with above each one the text “XXX will miss you”. Not only are these statements factually incorrect — they won’t miss me because I never used Facebook to communicate with them in the first place — but Facebook is almost literally putting words in the mouths of these people. Facebook has not asked them if they will miss me; it is using them as sock puppets to push its own message, which is “don’t go.” By using the emotional “miss you” phrase, Facebook is using its knowledge of my social connections to make me feel bad about leaving.

They are abusing my social graph for their own ends. It’s manipulative, unethical, and downright slimy.

Furthermore, if they are using my contacts to try to make me stay, it follows that if my friends have tried to leave Facebook, then Facebook may have used me, or at least my photo, to try to make them stay — something that I myself would absolutely not do.

Goodbye, Facebook. Martin will not miss you.


6 Replies to “Leaving Facebook”

  1. Wow, you beat me to it! I quit last month. Always hated Facebook anyway. The reasons you cite for leaving could be my own. It feels sooooo good to have no connection to all that bad karma.


  2. Hey! I guess Facebook thought I might miss you – I’m one of the randoms above.

    You’re totally right though – I didnt miss you. But only because I never even knew you left and I follow you on twitter 🙂

    As you say, theres other ways to keep in touch, but I do find it helped me feel connected to friends and family while I was on the other side of the world.

    I’m not too bothered by the content ownership but thats probably because I dont create much content.

  3. @”Your 32 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you” is nonsense. I assume that since they know how to use a web browser, they’re reasonably familiar with a computer, and probably have an email account they can use to reach me.

    Exactly! Good one 🙂

  4. Hi Martin…

    Stumbled across your site via the Twitter Google post. Just alerting you to a typo under the “about” section of your blog:

    “Despite occasional stretches of significantly geek-focused entries, this is not ACUALLY a tech blog. It’s just space for me to write about what’s on my mind.”

    None of my business, of course, except that the blog is so beautifully written that I figured you might want to know…

    Good luck with the Google+ battle.


  5. (reading the archives after finding your blog last night 😉

    I can’t stand facebook either and your demonstration of their emotional coercion here are very good examples of why they aren’t acting in an honest way towards their “clients.” I wish I could more easily quit, but I have several virtual friends who actually quit blogging and are relying mostly on facebook to be in touch with friends. I just wish they hadn’t done that! (I have been blogging for 6.5 years and several of my blog friends are saying that facebook killed their blogs. I refuse to surrender).

    I hardly ever post there and feel uncomfortable posting photos because they simply show them to anyone and their cousin when I get comments from friends (I know I can set up groups and stuff, but who has time to waste on that?). What I mostly do there is read what my friends share and comment back or chat in their comment sections.

    Well, I enjoy commenting very much and I am very prolix, so I will stop now not to bore you to tears! 😉

    P.S. thanks for commenting in my blog, I’ve contacted Abi through her +thread and I’ll be checking back to see what happens. I hope Alex can get his content back and it would be great if Kelvin could get his too, though it’s nothing much that he has there.

  6. I laughed at this when I disabled my account. Also, if you click one of the checkboxes that ask why you’re leaving your account, they try to persuade you that that reason is invalid. I did come back to Facebook, though, for a day, to permanently delete my account.

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