Yes, there were many good things about Facebook. And yes, I am very grateful for them. But it is time to move on and back into real life. I will close my facebook profile by the end of the month, and it won’t be hard. This will be the beginning of my new life after facebook. Here’s why, and what next.
I started using facebook in 2006. I began to learn quite a few things about my friends and was glad to explore them further in conversation. Old friends resurfaced, and it became possible to stay in touch without making a great deal of a commitment. We shared news about important events in our lives, we exchanged thoughts, quotations, images, and articles. Given that I moved house 15 times in 15 years, facebook provided quite a bit of the continuity I longed for.
Where there is light there is darkness, and there was always the nagging feeling that somehow I am paying a higher price for this free service than I would be prepared to pay. Face recognition was one thing; also the fact that many new features were switched on by default, sometimes contrary to facebook’s explicit announcements. Facebook time and again changed its privacy settings without properly communicating them.
Over the last month or so, I have only been on facebook once or twice. I was afraid life after facebook would be impossible — life would essentially end if I quit. I have since come to realize that, yes, maybe, there are things I miss, but I can conquer my addiction. I had always known that I was not forced to use facebook and that I could still make phone calls, write e-mails, letters, and postcards, and that I would simply go out and get together with my friends. I did all these things, but the intervals got bigger. It was only in theory that a variety of media was available to me. In reality, facebook assumed a monopoly on my social life. This low-level, uncommitted, out-of-breath form of communication seemed to have won. I have come to call it „facespeak.“ It is not a nice langauge to learn. Its main effect is that we no longer actually „face“ each other. There is a reason why Google and twitter have become verbs, but facebook hasn’t. We no longer face each other. We click on. Sometimes I feel that I have lost face.
I am concerned that as a facebook user I am no longer in charge of my own data. I do not know who my data is shared with, and who makes money with it. I appreciate that companies need to make money, and that they cooperate with third parties. So much of my data is out there and available to institutions and organisations that I will never hear about, and decisions are made based on them that affect my choices in life. My data is cross-referenced with health and financial data, which affects my choices of insurances, banking products, and even places to go. I cannot make my voice heard to contradict the decisions of algorithms if I do not even see that they are being made.
On facebook, I have around 600 friends. Each connection is the result of a wonderful moment, of years enjoyed together. In each case, being connected on facebook has added something beautiful to my life. I am very grateful to all my friends for these gifts. By now, I hardly see my best friends on facebook. Their news hardly make it onto my newsfeed. I am swamped with news about people I hardly know. Yes, these things can be adjusted, and believe me I have tried. The problem has not gone away.
This is why I have decided to no longer be active on facebook, and to embark on a life after facebook. My intention is to focus on other social networks: dinners and lunches, trips to museums and the movies, hikes and walks, evenings spent over beer and wine, letters and postcards – all the things I can already do, and that I do do, but that I would like to enjoy in themselves, without being distracted, exploited, and screened by algorithms. My intention is definitely not to run away from anyone, or to break off any contacts. On the contrary, I would like to lead a life in the freedom that friendship can provide. I promise to be in touch, and I would be thrilled to hear from you.
There is a way of downloading all your personal data from facebook. Facebook was forced to introduce this function, and while it is not perfect, it is certainly useful. I would like to keep a record of the many wonderful things that have happened to me on facebook, although I would like to keep them close to me since they are so dear to me. On my website, I will probably share quite a few of the things I would have posted on facebook.
In my new life after facebook, I would love to stay friends with you. I would be excited if we could become friends.