Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why and How I am Leaving Facebook

My Facebook Page 24th September 2011

I have been a Facebook user since August 2007, when I began investigating it as a real time social text. Four years later I have so had enough. The upcoming changes in the form of Timeline is not the same program I signed up for in 2007.  

When I signed on to Facebook in 2007 it was defined as "a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them." Now, with the implementation of Timeline, Facebook is defined by its founder as “[A]ll your stories, all your apps, a new way to express who you are.” Anyone familiar with the architecture of Facebook knows that it is far from simply 'expressing who you are' on the platform. Who I am on FB is formed by Facebook itself. If I contribute 'all my stories, all my apps and express myself' on FB, I see myself as losing those contributions to the vast database of the program. Plus with Timeline I am now part of an information flow in real time, the nature and perimeters of which I do not control. Suddenly friends-of-friends are within my feed and I am, I presume, within theirs. There is little time or space available for my own self-expression in FB now, because if I even just throw a pebble in the pool, it returns to me as a Tsunami of unknown origins. The entire equation of FB has changed. the analogy used by the Napperville Sun is today ancient history:

"To users, Facebook will no longer be a bench by the side of a river where they sit and watch an endless flow of ephemera float by and then disappear."

I prefer the village square or Agora analogy myself, where I once could go to share with a group of people whom I actually knew, and we could talk, share links and catch up. The circle I once had on Facebook seems to be possible today with Google+, or at least that is what I am hoping.

Added to the expanse of contacts and information I am exposed to on the 'new Facebook' is the somewhat sinister promise of the Timeline interface, which is described by one commentator as,
"Your Facebook presence is now intended to be durable. In 2029, when your firstborn son’s holographic avatar is going off to lunar robot fighting school, you can rewind your Timeline to 2011 and show him what you were up to in the week before he was born."
as well
"Facebook's updated Open Graph will make the social network far more "sticky." Zuckerberg said users will have the ability--thanks to Timeline and a new addition, Ticker--to see what a friend is doing, like watching a movie on Netflix or listening to a song on Spotify, and engage in that same activity from within the social network. The Facebook CEO said he believes the improvements will help create "a completely new class of social apps" that will let users share every single facet of their lives on the social network." - (Cnet) Facebook Changes Creeping Out Some Customers

To me this sounds like a total nightmare scenario.The week before my son was born was and are my memories, my images and mine to explain to him should I choose to do so. Facebook or any other web platform (that I do not control) has no place in the representation or explanation of that period in my life. Futuristic fantasies do not convince me otherwise. Added to this is the intrusion of Facebook cookies;

"Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions." - Logging out of Facebook is Not Enough

However, I have a real problem in that the contacts I have gathered in my four years of using Facebook represent a large percentage of the entire number of people I actually know. I have real people in Facebook; friends and family. People I do not see, that are scattered around the globe. Many of them are very important to me. So I am busy exporting as much of the information in my account as I can. First the email address of my friends, all 397 of them:

Go to and click the Facebook icon. A log-in dialog should pop-up, just sign-in with your Facebook credentials and within seconds, you entire Facebook address book will be available inside your Yahoo Mail Account. Once the import is done, click this link to download a CSV file with the email addresses of all your Facebook contacts to your desktop. You can then import the CSV file into Gmail Contacts, LinkedIn, your phone address book or any of the social sites where you want to connect with your existing Facebook circle. If Yahoo! is unable to import your Facebook Address book, open your Facebook page and choose “Application Settings” under Account. Next remove the “Yahoo! Contact Importer” application from your Facebook profile and try the steps mentioned in the video again.

I have a Yahoo mail account so this was easy. I now have all my FB friends in my Gmail account. I now have to find those of my FB friends who are on Google+ via their email addresses. This is time consuming but not impossible.

You’ll find instructions to download the data in your Account Settings page. Once you’ve logged into your Facebook account click Account and then choose Account Settings from the drop-down menu.

On the first page of settings (cleverly titled Settings) you should notice a new option beneath Language that says Download a Copy. Click on it to lodge your request.

I did not receive an email notification that I could download a copy of my account and I had to log back in to Facebook and click on Download a Copy again where I got this message:

Another way to export the data related to your friends on Facebook is with the Facebook Friend Exporter plug-in for Google Chrome

Facebook has been doing everything it can to prevent the Chrome plug-in from working and I did not have much luck with it. However other people say it works and the advantage of it is that it exports not only emails, but phone numbers and photos as well.

To download any of your Facebook photo albums with ease, all you need is Fotobounce - it's a free Windows-only utility that would help you manage photos in your Facebook and Flickr accounts right from the desktop.

The links and collections of videos, audio and comments I have collected on Facebook seem to be doomed to oblivion. FBexport is one of many programs that functions as a web scraper, and it claims to be able to extract the following:

Using a web scraper to retrieve you data from Facebook will get your account closed permanently as it breaks the terms of use agreement. Section 3.2 states the following:
You will not collect users’ content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission.
The problem with having your account closed and not deleted, as is the aim if you wish to discontinue your relationship with the Zuckerberg Empire, is that a closed account is still in existence and the contents of it remain the property of Facebook. This is a tricky situation. But if you are deleting your account anyway this may be a stylish way to go out. Just make sure you know when you want to be banished from the land of Facebook and understand that everything in your account still exists on the servers of Facebook. I hope to be exiled by the end of next week but I will not be leaving anything behind when I go.

Finally since publishing this post yesterday I have been getting a lot of traffic from Facebook itself. In directing the link here FB publishes the following warning:

The propagation of fear is the last resort of the wicked. Censorship is built into the architecture of Facebook and this is another reason why I am closing my account.

To delete the Facebook account follow the link here and then the instructions.


Anonymous said...

I was prepared to be, at least for the present, non-committal about Facebook's latest gimmick - they appeared to be facing problems lately (apparently as the company people now love to hate) and companies need to do what they need to do to survive. I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. But after reading what they did to you - viz, how they have cast your perfectly safe link as a harmful one, on the scale of malware and phishing (!!) - this to me is way beyond the pale. This speaks at best of petty malice, at worst unwarranted censorship. As you say, this is "propagation of fear" - untrue, unjust and unjustified. Their actions have pushed me over the edge - I will cancel my account too. Thanks for writing this post and giving me another perspective on the issue.

Anonymous said...

I just left Facebook for a few weeks and realized leaving for good was the right decision too. In my one last login to write my friends I'll use your tips to save my data. I had previously decided I preferred losing it to keeping my account. So thanks for the tips.

Here's my post on leaving --

I don't find Google+ much better. I'm using Diaspora, which is peer-to-peer (I have some links to it in my post), so you own your data. Not many people use it now, but I expect it to grow.

Thanks again!