Breaking up is hard to do

Don't take your love away from me Don't you leave my heart in misery If you go then I'll be blue ’Cause breaking up is hard to do - Neil Sedaka

When I announced that I had quit Twitter and Facebook Tantek Çelik asked if I could write up my Facebook experience for the indieweb wiki. To kill the proverbial two birds I thought I would also turn it into a post.

The thing that initially surprised me was that the option to deactivate wasn’t hidden away under multiple layers of UI. When you go to your settings and it is mentioned in the description of the “Manage Your Account” section, immediately visible without any digging.

I think they’re trying to ease you in gently for what follows. Facebook doesn’t want you to leave, that much is pretty obvious.

The steps below may not be in sequence (I can’t recall properly as I just wanted to get it over and done with) but I have put them in this order for dramatic effect.

You are, predictably, asked for the reason you want to leave and presented with a number of options to choose from. I chose the one that said “it’s not fun” (or words to that effect) and was advised that it might be more fun if I followed more people. The big blue is trying to convince you not to take your love away.

I’m sure the option for “I don’t feel safe” would have a similarly trite and patronising response. Thinking back, I should have clicked around a bit more and had a good look at the various options.

The  coup de grâce, however, is an attempt at emotional blackmail. During the quitting process you are shown the avatars of a number of your friends with the text “xxxx will miss you”.

It’s almost like Facebook is saying “don’t stay for me, stay for them” and it reminds me of the Dave Eggers book The Circle with its tenets:


The very notion that you would not want to share your every waking moment with the world is anathema to them.

Facebook says you will be removed from the timeline after a few minutes but some data can take longer based on interaction from others (shares etc.) while things like messages to other people are no longer yours and stay with the recipients.

Unlike Twitter, which deletes your account 30 days after deactivation, Facebook holds your account in it’s deactivated status forever - that’s a scary thought. To reactivate it all you have to do is log in.

And any action that logs in, either directly or via another app or service, will reactivate it - maybe they’re hoping you do it by accident or realise you’ve signed up for your favourite games using Facebook so just have to go back.

Had I paid more attention to the process and prompts, and maybe been more unsure as to whether I really wanted to deactivate, perhaps I might have been swayed.

You have to contact Facebook directly should you wish to delete the account completely but, somewhat ironically, that requires you log back in to access the relevant page thus reactivating your account.

Following the delete account link asks you to simply re-enter your password to confirm account deletion. There is a grace period of 14 days allowing you to log back in and cancel should you have a change of heart.

I can’t see that happening.

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# In retrospect, while deactivating / deleting my accounts seems like a big deal, the real battle was fought some time before.

I've never been much of a Facebook user but took the decision a number of years ago to unfollow a whole bunch of people and restrict it to just family and a few select "real world" friends.

For Twitter it was the decision to stop tweeting in 2016 which, by extension, meant that I also stopped checking.

Killing my accounts is definitely more final and removed the last vestiges of temptation but I honestly don't think I could be tempted anyway.

It just feels good to have free myself from a false need to keep those aspects of a fractured online identity.


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Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog