Photo: Orbon Alija/Getty Images
The New York Times, yesterday, published what is probably the definitive account of Facebook’s leadership being comically inept. As the company slowly learned that its social network was being used to carry out state-run influence campaigns, leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg mostly tried to protect themselves, even going so far as to hiring a Republican consulting firm which tied criticism of Facebook to conservative bogeyman George Soros. Broadly, it confirms much of what you might have already suspected: Facebook cares a lot more about its bottom line than it does about you.
Every week, it seems like there’s a new reason to deactivate your Facebook account, and the Times’ article is one of the most compelling arguments yet. There was also …
- The recent data breach exposing 30 million users.
- Rampant fake news issues on WhatsApp.
- The company’s mismanagement of Instagram.
- Allegations that the company lied to advertising clients.
- The shameless way in which it clones competitors.
- The Facebook Portal.
But let’s say you can’t bring yourself to delete your Facebook account entirely, because you might need to get in touch with Andrew, who you had one AP History class with in 2006.
Here’s my partial solution: just log out.
I mean, yes, duh, this is the most obvious solution in the world — “Brian, you numbskull!” — but it’s really crazy how well this works for me. Last month, Facebook disclosed a data breach that compromised millions of users’ personal information. As a precaution, they reset the authentication keys for every user who had come into contact with the security hole, forcing them to log back in. My advice is: Just don’t do that!
To log out of Facebook on desktop, just go to the tiny arrow in the top right corner (you know, the innocuous menu Facebook doesn’t want you to notice that let’s you access your privacy settings) and click “log out” from the drop-down menu. On your phone, you should just delete the app.
The thing about having a job where you use a computer all day is that it becomes very easy to click around the internet idly, refreshing social media until something interesting pops up. Checking social media becomes less of an active choice and more of an idle thing to do when you’d rather not be doing something else. It’s that thing where you keep clicking the links in your bookmarks toolbar, hoping they show you something new. To put it another way, the only reason I was checking Facebook was because I was already logged in, making the News Feed just a click away.
So when Facebook kicked me out of every session I was logged into, I discovered this weird thing where, if I didn’t log back in, I didn’t feel compelled to check it at all. I wouldn’t even notice that I wasn’t checking it. Turning off all push notifications on my phone creates the same effect. I’d occasionally check it on my personal computer and find notifications I’d missed from days or weeks ago.
As pathetic as it sounds, it was surprising that I could go entire days without checking Facebook, revealing how much the service plays a truly unnecessary role in my life. If, on the rare chance, I did need to log in to find some info, I’d log back out immediately after getting what I needed. Sometimes I’d click the bookmark, be taken to a login screen, and just go back the way I came. Here’s an artist’s rendering:
Short of nuking your entire account, logging out of Facebook is surprisingly effective at demonstrating just how much you can survive without this supposedly vital product. Maybe this is obvious to you. And yes, I’m still using Instagram, and most of the globe is on WhatsApp, but the core service of Facebook, its lifeblood, is now so worthless that, at an increasing rate, I forget it exists.