For the past year, every three months for about four weeks or so, I deactivate my Facebook account. I had several reasons for suspending my profile in the past. The window Facebook gives me into my friends’ lives has a restricted view. The social network would only show me updates of approximately 10% of my connections.
To see what anyone else was up to, I would have to actively look for them. It became tiresome.
For me, Facebook is a tool that facilitates procrastination and keeps me away from living life in the real world. I have a list of books to read, films to watch and places to go as long as my arm, but I always seemed to find at least 30 minutes a day to idle away, not making a dent on my list.
I was also looking for too much validation from online acquaintances. If my funny little quips posted as status updates didn’t get many likes, I’d become disheartened. I really wanted to see a nice high number in that red notification circle.
I needed my daily dopamine hits and that fact began to worry me. And I want to enjoy my life without the pressure of having to prove it constantly. It was about time to take another break from the book.
The story about Cambridge Analytica broke late on St Patrick’s Day. I was unsettled, but not shocked. But upon going over the story, my level of discomfort increased. A staggering 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested, but only 270,000 users had signed up to take the personality test that led to so many people having their data breached. That means that for every single personality test-taker, more than 185 of their friends and acquaintances also had their privacy infringed. That is a massive domino effect.
Furthermore, the timescale is shocking. It seems Facebook knew about the data breach three years ago in 2015, but chose not to warn users and took baby steps to secure and recover the information. To me, that displays a real lack of duty of care to users.
Then I began reading Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. By the time I got to chapter two, I had deactivated my profile. I know data is being collected about me every time I go online or even turn on my phone. But I was becoming more conscious of the amount of data I was willing giving up about myself by using Facebook and doing seemingly innocent actions like uploading photos or stating which events I was interested in attending. It felt like it was time to close the tap.
For me, Spring cleaning will also involve being Facebook-free. And I know that deactivation is not the same as deletion - I'm working my way up to that.