Losing your Facebook account won’t ruin your life. In fact, it may free it, writes Hadyn Green
Only Facebook could launch a feature called “protect” and have it actually be an app that tracks all of your browsing across the internet. “[Onavo analyses] your use of websites, apps and data. Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services ...”
In other words, the social media giant is less interested in keeping you safe online than it is about knowing even more about your personal life, so it can sell you advertising.
Never think Facebook “only knows what I tell it”. You’ve already told the social media giant a lot about yourself simply by using it.
Facebook knows all the ways I log in, as well as the email address I use to sign in, and how often I check the site. This is all useful information for advertisers – for example, I’ve been categorised as a “new smartphone and tablet user”, which could mean I’m more likely to buy expensive tech products.
If you’re curious about what information Facebook is sharing about you, go to 'Ads' under settings. You’ll find what it knows you’re interested in, and what brands you like and have visited – and even some you haven’t.
Many friends of mine had Golf Digest listed as a brand they had interacted with, though none could remember doing so. The monthly golfing magazine is part of the Conde Nast group, as are Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Interact with one of Conde Nast’s titles and you’ll be linked to all of them. You may not like golf, but maybe one of your friends does and now Conde Nast has access to your contacts.
Facebook never wants to show you something that might challenge your world view because then you might not hit 'like'.
Every time you use your Facebook details to log in to an app or website, data from that site gets sent to Facebook. So signing in to Spotify reveals your favourite music, but much more personal information could be disclosed through Tinder. This info is used to show you ads. If you’ve visited a travel website, for example, you might then see ads for hotel deals in your Facebook news feed.
Facebook also allows businesses to 'match' you. For example, if you give a supermarket your phone number or email address, it can add it to a customer list that can be matched to your Facebook profile, giving the supermarket more insight into your habits.
And it’s not just advertisers.
If you’ve used Facebook recently you’ll know that the timeline of entries you see are not in chronological order and is more likely to show you what you want to see. Or rather, what Facebook wants you to see.
Facebook never wants to show you something that might challenge your world view because then you might not hit 'like'. This can lead to narrow views and biases getting stronger, and for misinformation to spread faster. This is extremely bad for you and can create widening gaps between people.
So how would I suggest breaking Facebook’s echo chamber of ads and the same people over and over?
You could go through your Facebook settings and minimise what it collects and what it shares. This includes the privacy settings of what you share with other users and the ad settings of what you share with advertisers. In the 'Ads' settings, go to each tab and turn off all the sharing features. It won’t stop Facebook collecting the information, but it limits what it does with it.
Or you could just delete your account. I’ve done it before, and when I came back it was to stop a scammer from impersonating me on the site. You may be shocked but losing your Facebook account won’t ruin your life. In fact, it may free it.