Sunday 16 June 2019

How to completely wipe your Facebook profile (it involves more than you think)


Stock photo: REUTERS
Stock photo: REUTERS

Celine Naughton

#DeleteFacebook is trending, but wiping your profile is tougher than it sounds. Celine Naughton reveals how to successfully break free of the site.

You don't have to say goodbye to your friends after deleting your Facebook account. Here's a guide to staying connected:

Before you go

Download your data before you leave and you'll have a record of all the personal stuff that you've shared since you joined Facebook - posts, photos, likes, messages, friends and heaps more. Stash your photos in a separate file. However, you won't get photos that other people shared with you. If you want those, you'll need to save them individually.

Explain to your friends that while you're leaving Facebook, you're not walking away from them. Gather their contact details, birthdays and special occasions so that you can stay in touch post-Fexit, and put aside a little time to log them in an address book on your computer and/or a paper notebook.

Move events to a real calendar

Make a quick Frexit: Mark Zuckerberg called users “dumb f***s” in 2004. Photo: REUTERS
Make a quick Frexit: Mark Zuckerberg called users “dumb f***s” in 2004. Photo: REUTERS

Once you have your friends' birthdays, anniversaries and other key dates, you can put them into iCal or Google Calendar on your computer and programme it to notify you minutes, hours or days in advance, giving you time to send a text, e-card, or even a physical card to mark important occasions. And if that's too techy for you, there's nothing wrong with writing dates in an old-fashioned print calendar or diary to remind you.

Keep in touch

Deleting a Facebook account doesn't mean you have to end your social life on or offline. Stay connected using other apps like Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp (although these are also owned by Facebook), Viber, Twitter, Signal and Skype. Many former Facebook friends say they communicate best via text, email, phone calls and, perish the thought, hooking up for walks and coffee in the real world.

Connected apps

If you created accounts with other apps like mytaxi, Spotify or Ticketmaster using your Facebook account, you may have to extricate yourself by cancelling the account and starting again. For Spotify, make sure to save your old playlists before re-subscribing, as a new account will not include your old favourites. You can create new accounts using Google, your phone number or email address instead of your Facebook profile.

Can't stay away

If you have to use Facebook for work but don't want your data shared with app developers and data harvesters, you can disconnect your Facebook account from third party sites. Go to your settings page and click on Apps. Select 'Edit' under 'Apps, websites and plug-ins' and disconnect your account from the Facebook platform.

To prevent friends sharing information about you, click on 'Apps Others Use' and uncheck all the categories you'd rather keep private.

Celine Naughton writes:

I've had it with you, Facebook. Things have never been great between us since that time seven years ago when an anonymous troll used your platform to defame me and you did nothing about it. Remember how hard I tried to talk to you, but you refused to listen? In fact, you were so disinterested that it was only when I retained a solicitor to threaten you with legal action that you bothered to take down the offending page.

You didn't even apologise. So I left you, but like an idiot, four years later, I decided to forgive and forget and reactivated my account.

"What's on your mind, Celine?" you asked, in that fake jolly, over-personal tone of yours, as if nothing had happened between us. Bygones. I rolled my eyes and resumed contact with my friends. I grant you that in the 16 months since we've been back together, we've had some good times. Not a lot, but between the mostly mindless chatter, endless cat videos and the occasional lol, we've had an interesting discussion here and there. In spite of my misgivings, I was starting to get you - just a bit.

And then you go and spoil it all by saying something stupid, like… nothing. Nothing as in you knew nothing about Cambridge Analytica smuggling data from over 50 million American users with the express purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election. And that's just the 50 million we know about.

This is a wake-up call. You provide a platform for social networks, yet when your own founder Mark Zuckerberg set up Facebook back in 2004, he called users "dumb f***s" for submitting free data about themselves - data which is now calculated by algorithms to micro-target users, manipulating us economically, socially and politically. If the last week is anything to go by, maybe Zuckerberg was right.

Judging by the dramatic fall in Facebook's share values in the immediate aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, I'm not the only disillusioned user. It seems that millions of us have been weighing up the pros and cons of our relationship with Facebook. Do we love it? Can we cope without it? And if we decide to separate, how do we go about it? Will it be a hard Fexit, or a soft sit-down dinner kind of break-up with one final fling before we go?

"How often do those of us who use social media berate ourselves with, 'I really have to stop spending so much time on this'?" says relationships psychotherapist Bernadette Ryan. "We all need to ask ourselves how we use it and why we spend so much time online.

"Social media allows people to be social in a mindless, rather than a mindful, way. It's like going to the fridge to see if there's something to eat and when you get there you realise there's nothing really appetising or satisfying to be had. There's also the dis-inhibition factor of keyboard warriors who take no responsibility for their actions online. Yet we fill our time with social media, and Facebook has taken centre stage in that."

Amid the growing backlash, there are many who think it's time for the colossus to exit stage left, but if you're unsure whether you could do without the social network, Ryan recommends you look at the potential losses involved. If you have to use Facebook for work or suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) syndrome, perhaps you can't or don't want to risk not being privy to information, insights and contact with others if you're no longer in the loop. However, if you decide to end the relationship, it has to be a clean break, she says, not a gradual process.

"You have to go cold turkey," says Ryan. "Social media is designed to be addictive and breaking any habit takes time, so what do you replace this one with? It should be something worthwhile to you.

"I think there's no substitute for social interaction in real life. You could volunteer for a local charity, join a club or set up a face-to-face group of like-minded people to discuss things that interest you. Eventually, you're likely to wonder what kept you locked in a virtual world for so long."

Having taken on board Ryan's comments, I decided that, for me, life without Facebook would not be the end of the world.

And then, Facebook, you sent me a video.

Never one to forget, you remembered that last Sunday was our nine-year anniversary together. "Happy Faceversary," you said. March 25 was not just another day; to you it was special. You showed me photos I had shared, made a badge with my face on it. There were balloons, streamers and, of course, smiling emojis.

I could think of no better occasion to join the #DeleteFacebook movement. So enough, Facebook. It's over. We're finished. And for the record, it's not me, it's you.

Irish Independent

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