Hello! Facebook is awful and it’s time for you to get out of there.
Facebook is your buddy’s bad party that you showed up to because you missed the last party because you sort of had a sinus infection (turns out it was just a cold!) but there’s not really anyone here you like and you’re mostly just hanging around because you’re hoping someone cool will show up and give you a reason to peel yourself out of the corner with the bottle of cheap red you swiped off the counter without anyone noticing. (No one noticed because they were all either trying to get a dance party started to a Chris Brown song or trying to find a way not to participate in the Chris Brown dance party without having to yell “CHRIS BROWN IS A VILE AND VIOLENT ASSHOLE” at someone they’ll have to see at their brother-in-law’s wedding next weekend.)
Don’t worry. Your ride is here.
I quit Facebook in 2018 without giving the process a lot of thought. I knew I wanted to quit — the Cambridge Analytica story about how the firm worked with Facebook to socially engineer Trump’s occupation of the White House scared the piss out of me — but I wasn’t totally sure how to leave, especially since my day job involves managing social media for a nonprofit organization. And also, I mean, there were still lots of people on Facebook I cared about and wanted to keep up with their lives, and how do you do that when one dip-ass kid who wanted to creep on the girls in his class figured out how to co-opt and monetize (for himself) human social interaction in the digital age?
But you don’t have to let Mark Zuckerberg be the creepo cornering you in the bathroom line. You might have to pee behind the house for a minute, but you can do this.
You might be asking, Why, though? There’s free booze at this party (even if it’s wine coolers and Bud Light and something brown from … Norway?) and they only play Chris Brown every other song and Krista really promised she would definitely maybe make an appearance before her show later, and you haven’t seen Krista in ages! I mean, there are worse parties! Somebody here has got to be cool! There was that guy from earlier in the MST3K t-shirt!
Here’s why I hated the party: I didn’t like knowing that my personal data either had been or was being used not just without my permission, but without my permission for political purposes that I don’t just oppose, but find deeply morally repugnant, by people who absolutely and positively gave not one single solitary fuckaroo. I know that I should have known. I know I should have made a different decision ages ago about this shit. But look, I’m a millennial; I have pretty lax expectations when it comes to data privacy and a lot of the time, I know I’m making a bad and largely unavoidable bargain just by being online. I know my likes and clicks and searches inform the way I’m advertised to. I made a decision a long time ago, before a lot of people were comfortable using their real names and pictures on the internet, to use my real name and picture on the internet, because that is what Real Journalists did. It was worth it! I didn’t (need to) hide behind screen names and I didn’t have to grapple with a weird disconnect between my personal and my professional life. The openness of the thing made me feel okay about it; it was also a manifestation of my white and cis and class privilege — I wasn’t worried that who I was would be a problem in relation to what I said online.
But when I really acknowledged to myself that giving up my data was about something more than someone trying to sell me leggings or a wedding ring or diapers, I just couldn’t justify it any more. If you haven’t watched this Netflix documentary, I recommend it. I watched it after I’d quit Facebook, and I thought it was just going to be about scary random data privacy shit, but … well, it’s about the fall of our whole goddamned country.
Cambridge Analytica may have tanked, but Facebook is as bad today as it ever was. Zuckerberg is meeting with the worst kind of fascist assholes and justifying it with white boy both sides-ism. Facebook is an organizing hub for racist cops, and it’s not a big deal either to police departments or to Facebook itself. Facebook is run by people who hate hard questions about the hate the platform engenders. Facebook is excited about letting right-wing ding-dongs run amok making and enforcing Facebook policies which, golly balls, tend to benefit right-wing ding-dongs. Facebook is probably even bad for your personal wellbeing and self-image. And hey, I’m not a technophobe; I stay on Twitter even though it’s a hellscape. I’m even still on Instagram, though I’m warming up to the idea that I need to quit that platform, too. I don’t think social media is bad, or that the internet is bad. But Facebook? Specifically gives me the willies.
I’d already given Facebook the most intimate details of my life — I joined back when MySpace was still a thing, when Facebook wasn’t even open to people outside of a few pricey U.S. universities. I’d met and made friends and boyfriends and indeed even husband (singular) on Facebook. I’d organized feminist meetups and protests on Facebook. I’d even gotten real good at curating my Facebook timeline, ensuring that I mostly saw shit I cared about, from people I gave a shit about. Facebook worked for me; it had even helped me. And, at the time I quit, it was my job to use Facebook to spread the message of a cause I cared more passionately about than almost anything else.
But the party was a bad party, even if I was having fun sometimes. I went about quitting in a haphazard way, though I thought I was doing it a smart way.
I want you, when you quit Facebook, to do it in a smart way — so that you can keep in touch with the people you care about most, and, if you do social media for work, you can keep taking advantage of Mark Zuckerberg’s bad idea without handing over the tools of social destruction (more than is strictly necessary).
So here’s what you do.
Set a Big Happy-Ass Leaving Facebook Day date: You’re leaving Facebook! Set this date at least six weeks in the future. Right after the holidays is a great time to quit Facebook, because a lot of people who don’t normally use the platform are going to be using it to organize parties, post family photos, etc — so you’re more likely to see and be seen by people you want to keep in touch with even if they’re not avid Facebook users.
In a Facebook post, tell everybody on Facebook that you’re leaving Facebook on your Big Happy-Ass Leaving Facebook Day, and give them ways to follow you or reach out to you that aren’t on Facebook. Include your phone or Signal number, your handle on other platforms, your blog (even if it’s old, people can come find you and leave comments!), your snail mail address, which nights you can usually be found at your local pub or coffee shop. Repost this post on a weekly basis. Ask people to “like” it if they’ve seen it, or comment or message you in response with the best way to keep in touch with them.
Hell, set up a Big Happy-Ass Leaving Facebook Day registry at Nordstrom! Live your best life!
Ask the people you care most about keeping in touch with how they’d like to keep in touch. If you’ve got a robust comment-share-support circle on Facebook, you don’t want to lose this. Group texts can actually do a lot of the work Facebook does, with way fewer interruptions from the world’s Racist Aunties. I fucking love Slack, and a lot of people are already using it for work, so it’s a lighter lift for many folks. You can set up multiple Slacks for all kinds of different groups; I have Slacks for work, for friends, and even one that’s just for myself and my husband to talk about grocery lists and exchange pictures of the pets when one of us is out of town.
If you’re an avid user of other social media platforms and there’s a lot of overlap between your communities there and your Facebook community, post to those platforms to let people know you’re leaving Facebook. Facebook algorithms are mysterious bullshit, so it’s really hard to know who’s not seeing your posts about leaving Facebook. Make sure you get the information in front of as many people as possible.
In the vein of ensuring your Big Happy-Ass Leaving Facebook Day news gets in front of as many people as possible, continue sharing your news by posting many and various links to all the horrible nonsense perpetrated by Facebook, with information about your leaving Facebook plan in the post. Facebook treats its contract employees like total trash, you can definitely post one or two or three or four or five different stories about it!
If doing Facebook is your job: You wanna do all of these things, but you want to also do some more things. You’ll want to create a dummy Facebook account to use to run your company/org/business Facebook page. Do this using an email address from your organization, and give it a real fake name and maybe an old picture of you or your mom who doesn’t use Facebook, and load it up with nonsense that doesn’t matter to you or make much personal sense, but which could potentially reflect the data of a real person who loves fly fishing and Nirvana and Instant Pot recipes. Join some easy-access groups with this account (recipe groups, general fandoms, that kind of thing) and tie it to your mobile games if you want (Farmthingie, Covet, whatever). Let a few of your friends in on this scheme and have them “friend” the dummy account. Add some rando friends from the groups you’ve joined. Weird uncles love approving friend requests! Avail yourself. Once Facebook knows your dummy account is a real fake person, make that account an administrator of your org/biz/company page.
If doing Facebook is your job and you haven’t yet gotten your Facebook biz page verified for e-commerce or taking donations or running advertisements, do this as soon as you announce your Big Happy-Ass Leaving Facebook Day! Do this even if your biz page doesn’t need this stuff right now — you never know what you’ll need later. You’ll need to give Facebook your real information (like, your government ID), and maybe even receive some real mail from them at a U.S. domestic address. This can take a few weeks, so don’t put this step off. It sucks to have to give Facebook this info, but I don’t know a way around it if you need to ensure your biz can take advantage of the platform’s commercial options.
If doing Facebook is your job: Download the Facebook pages manager app for your phone, and set it up so that your dummy account, which is now the admin account for your biz page, is tied to the app so that you can monitor the page remotely.
If doing Facebook is your job: Make sure you can log in to your dummy account, with admin privileges, on your app and through the browser. Don’t use the dummy account for anything except monitoring your biz page and hitting people up for corn or whatever on Farmthing. Proceed to the next steps once you’ve done this.
The week before your Big Happy-Ass Leaving Facebook Day, download all of your personal, non-dummy data from Facebook. Once you’ve received it, I recommend storing it on a dedicated external drive for posterity and/or uploading it to a cloud or other online storage service so that you super do not lose this stuff. If you’re like me, you have lived a great deal of your life on Facebook, and the photos in particular are memories you want to save. You gave this all to Facebook — make sure you get it back, forever!
LEAVE FACEBOOK. Here’s how to permanently delete your account. Do that.
Proceed to live your Facebook-free life. Adopt a shelter pet.
Congratulations! You have left the bad party! You can still organize good parties with Evite or Eventbrite, and because you’ve thoughtfully set up your online social network in non-Facebook ways, people will know that you are the person who needs invites to things not on Facebook. You will become The Person Who Doesn’t Have Facebook, and people will find you extra attractive and mysterious. You will delight, in a non-judgmental way, in telling others how you’ve left the platform and offer them your assistance in divesting themselves from Facebook as well. You will lead a small revolution. It will be glorious.