Essays on Technology and Culture

Facebook on My Terms

My social media sabbatical has ended, and with it comes the challenge of reintegrating the various services back into my life, without letting them overwhelm me. i can see this being an ongoing process of deciding what I use, when, and where, and setting limits. However, I know one service is going to get the most of my effort in determining its role in my life—Facebook. I tried giving up Facebook once before only to end up sucked back in. Why? It’s simple: Facebook is where all my friends are. If I want to keep in touch with them, in any way, I’ll have to be on Facebook.

I just don’t have to do it on Facebook’s terms.

It’s something I’d been thinking about over the past few weeks. I started by installing the DoNotTrackMe extension for Safari. This way, I don’t have to worry about Facebook building a shadow profile on me. After reactivating my account, I started removing identifying personal information. I plan to strip it down to just my name, and my relationship. They don’t need to know anything else. I don’t know how effective it will be, but I hope that by explicitly removing information from my profile, it’s less information Facebook will have to track me. I’m also using AdBlock to hide what whatever advertising Facebook would show me anyway. [1] A friend suggested I go all out with a pseudonym as well, but that won’t stop the beast from tracking me.

Then, as I prepared to return to the Facebook world, in whatever form, I listened to Episode #2 of Analog(ue) on In it, Myke Hurley described how he used Facebook: for Messenger, and Events… and not much else. He does not feed the beast. Myke’s Facebook strategy went well with Elan Morgan’s piece about giving up the “Like.” Facebook’s algorithm feeds on the data we give it, from status updates, to comments, to—yes—likes. I may comment to let my friends know I exist, but posting is verboten, let alone hitting the “Like” button.

Not hitting “Like” should help reduce the amount of nonsense in my stream, meaning I should get more relevant information from and about the people I care about, and not just clickbait. Combine that with Social Fixer to hide the excess Facebook chaff, and clear my news feed of all the stuff I’ve read (or just don’t care about), I’m able to have a much more relaxed experience. And, of course, I’m not using it at all on my phone. I don’t need the distraction while I’m out. Except for Messenger—i’m one of the rare people for whom decoupling the Messenger app makes life better. It keeps me away from the uncontrolled stream of nonsense.

I’m sure Facebook is getting enough data on me, even with the limitations I’ve imposed. Not to mention the years of data I’ve given it that it will not give up easily. But, if I can be in control, even just a little bit, of how much Facebook infiltrates my online life, it’ll make me feel better about it. Recognizing that Facebook is a communication tool, and not a way of life, goes a long way to gaining control. I plan to use it only as such from here on out. If I do not feed the beast, it loses strength.

  1. I am going to whitelist the decent ads like Fusion and The Deck, though. What I don’t want is targeted, spy based ads.  ↩