Thursday, July 21, 2011

Delete Your Facebook for Your Birthday

As the need for free (as in freedom) tools to communicate and socialize becomes increasingly urgent, more projects have been popping up to take up the challenge: GNU social and StatusNet, Crabgrass, Apache Wave, and more. The list goes on, and on. If you're not yet familiar with the issue, or even if you are, you should watch this excellent talk by Eben Moglen here:

The first step towards digital autonomy is of course to stop using services that restrict your freedom, whether they do so through unfair terms of service, disregard for your privacy, locking you in, and/or any other means. Facebook is the biggest and baddest right now, so it's a great place to start. If you're like most Facebook users, you're probably thinking something along the lines of "This is great, but I could never afford to delete my Facebook account". Really though, it isn't that bad. Instead of just having one central web service you rely on, you'll just be spread out on what you're already using (phone, text, IM, email), and perhaps picking up some new tools. It is a small sacrifice, but sometimes, what's slightly more convenient to you as an individual, is extremely harmful to society on a large scale. 

So, if you're willing to do it, there's really no better time to delete your Facebook account than on your birthday. All your friends will be coming to your page to post a quick "happy birthday" note on your wall, only to find that they can't, and that you'll be leaving. It's a great way to maximize your impact, and make sure everyone has other ways to contact you. 
It's easy: 

Not f'd — you won't find me on FacebookStep 1:  A while in advance (a week or more before your birthday) - Create a Facebook event for your birthday alerting people of your decision and why. Go ahead and copy the text I used for my event: 

For my birthday, I am permanently deleting (not decativating, so I won't be able to restore) my Facebook account. The day after this event, I will export all of my data and my account will be gone! 

If you want to keep in touch, here's how you can: 

Email: [your email here]
Phone/text: [your number here]
IM (Jabber/Google Talk): [your Jabber ID here]
[other]: [your other contact here]

Why I am leaving: 
  • Facebook is bad for the world - 
    They've plainly declared war on privacy, they lock users in, and they're trying to take over every aspect of our online lives (and dumb it down).​/top-ten-reasons-you-shoul​d-quit-facebook
  • Facebook is homogeneous and unilateral - 
    What we use to communicate shapes us. As more and more stuff goes on Facebook, the more everything we do online has to conform to Facebook's platform. It's not adding to our online presence; it's sucking it up. 
  • Facebook is annoying - 
    The groups, the apps, the "likes", the marketing and advertising, the constant stream of immutable noise.
Will i ever come back?

My requirements for an acceptable social networking tool are simple. It must be free software (also known as "open source"), and should be federated (think about email: you don't need a Gmail account to send mail to a Gmail account, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail users can email each other, etc). Since Facebook will likely never meet those simple requirements, I will likely never come back. 

If you want to leave too:

Read about how to delete your account, get the word out, and export your information here:

Invite all your friends to the event by using this Chromium/Google Chrome extension which adds a "select all" option to the invite window of Facebook events:

Then, if you want to increase your chances of people actually reading the event, click the "Message Guests" button and either paste in the same text, or write your own. 

Step 2: Shortly (a few days) before your birthday - Go to your Facebook privacy settings, select custom, and click the "Customize settings" link. On that page, under the "Things others share" section, uncheck the "Friends can post on my Wall" option. Then, go to your event page, hit the "Share" link to post it on your wall, and add a message like "For my birthday, I am leaving Facebook permanently". 

Step 3: On the day or the day after your birthday - Backup all of your account data then delete! Some tools for this are: 
Not f'd — you won't find me on FacebookThen delete your account! The "Deactivate Account" option doesn't delete your account and Facebook will keep your data. To delete, use this link:​lp/contact.php?show_form=d​elete_account

Now, you can bask in the freedom.