Why I Am Leaving Facebook

In 2007, I made a resolution.  

Around the turn of the millenium, my sense of home completely fell apart when we lost ours in frightening circumstances.  Like a bird chucking a load of twigs in one direction, my early twenties were spent trying to regain a sense of home. In 2007, all these efforts finally started to make a shape like something that could be structured into some kind of safe shelter. Breathing out, I realised how many amazing people I had lost touch with in this wild process – and resolved to keep in touch, to regain touch, to make contact.  

In fact, rather than a nest, I always described Facebook as a net.  In it, I was catching hold of people I wanted to be able to communicate with.  I was wary of it. I turned off my ‘wall’ as soon as I was able to figure out how.  I rarely commented. I made all my privacy settings as private as possible.

I made all my privacy settings as private as possible again and again, over the years, when Facebook turned things off or changed things or switched things on or whatever it is they do.  Every time, I thought I was one of the savvy ones. I was using Facebook as a communication tool, and like every means of communication, I was able to choose how I used it.

A few days ago, a Facebook friend linked to advice by Martin Lewis on how to check whether you were unknowingly sharing to third parties.  Of course, I thought I wasn’t. Of course, I found out that things had changed, that the good faith I had had back in 2007 when I clicked on some Mighty Boosh themed game or Shakespearean insult generator had opened up into an intricate series of permissions, whereby every friends-only status update, photo (sparse, with those all important privacy settings), private group and the messages therein, had been harvested for over a decade.  

I should have left in 2014, when Facebook ran an experiment on over half a million people’s moods.   We were warned: ‘Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons media select committee, said the experiment was intrusive. “This is extraordinarily powerful stuff and if there is not already legislation on this, then there should be to protect people,” he said. “They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.” (From The Guardian)

But I didn’t leave.  I was expecting my second child, I was grieving my mum and granny, I wanted to stay connected to my private net of brilliant people.  

I am leaving, now.   

And although it is a risk in terms of being less connected to the poetry world during these early years of parenting, when bedtime clashes with readings and open mics, and however much I wish I could carry on interacting in all the varied ways with family, friends, fantastic people I met at parties or in a paddling pool, as if it was an ethical, benevolent communication platform – I am not ever really going to be able to control my settings because they don’t stop with me, and I am tired.  

As I knew in 2007, I know now: in a world where home can be lost, where everything can change, we must refuse to let a company have a monopoly on one of our most crucial, most precious commodities – interaction.  We cannot continue be in thrall to Facebook for our interaction.

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