It’s been awhile now since the Cambridge Analytica story broke. We’ve also previously talked social media privacy and surveillance on this blog. I’d already made some efforts to control my online presence; I deleted my employment and education history, and I limited who could see my photos. However, there was one glaring hole in my Facebook privacy that I was willfully ignoring:
How had I amassed over 1,000 friends?
If you’ve maintained meaningful relationships with the population of an entire country town, power to you. I certainly wasn’t speaking to these ‘friends’ on a daily basis, or even yearly. Some of them I had unfollowed six years previously!
In school, it was common to add people on Facebook as you met them. Some people added complete strangers (although I never did) to gain as many followers as possible. Of course, I might just be being cynical because I don’t understand how anyone could be that social.
I was at school during the decline of MySpace, which was was all about self-expression. Choose your own background, choose a song to autoplay when someone is on your page, choose your fonts and maybe even a sick rain effect. I think we took that mindset over to Facebook. We blithely fed it information about our lives in a bid to be seen. We added everyone we knew.
And I never deleted any of them.
Fast forward to nearly a decade since I joined Facebook. How many people from 2009 are you still speaking to? They’ve become strangers. Even the ones I do remember, I don’t like a number of them. Some of these ‘friends’ have hurt me, but I’ve haven’t deleted them because I was afraid of social consequences.
Cutting down my list took less time than I expected. I made up my criteria as I went, but I did start with a few basic questions: will I see this person again? Do they mean anything to me? I became increasingly less selective as I worked my way down.
I was still pretty conservative. I cut upwards of 600, which is small (relative to my starting point) but also terrifyingly large. Six hundred strangers to whom I’ve given this voyeuristic power in my life. Six hundred people whom I’ve cut and won’t miss.
In 2018, I don’t know if going off the grid is at all possible; I don’t know if I’d even want that. I’m not ready to delete Facebook.