A supposedly simple task that almost turned into a social study.
#DeleteFacebook, a simple effort that almost turned into a social study
“Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s what’s it’s all about, all right. But talkin’ about it and bein’ it, that’s two different things. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ‘em.” George Hanson, Easy Rider
When I signed up to Facebook it was a friendly site, with no advertising, and not much data use. But I very quickly got frustrated with Facebook, their advertisements, and reports about how they use customer data. But the site was just so convenient, so I never considered alternatives. Then there came the recent scandals about privacy confirming what I suspected all the time – just last week a report about 2 Billion users data mined, combined with email addresses from other sources and several 10thousand used by third parties among others to influence elections. See the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. On top of that I found out that there are 27 Martin Gummerts on Facebook, most of them very young people in the Philippines. Martin is not a name used in the Philippines and Gummert is a very rare name world wide. A Google search for Gummert brings up only a handful Gummert individuals and for Martin Gummert just pages related to me. So obviously there is something really fishy, or even a scam going on. Complaints to Facebook were unsuccessful in all cases except for one, where the fake site even had a copy of my passport picture. Due to a percieved lack of alternatives I stayed with Facebook in the past, but this was the drop that made the bucket overflow. So I decided to join the #DeleteFacebook movement.
It was scary first, because I am connecting with so many people, in particular on motorbikes and sailboats, through Facebook and I have no other easy means to maintain that and get up-to date information about their activities and events. First I thought I could not continue my current lifestyle without Facebook. But then I thought about all the time I am wasting on the platform. About whether I need to stay in touch with close to 700 supposed friends. And I remembered me leaving eBay last year, which initially scared me in a similar way. Now I feel liberated from eBay and their shitty customer service. So there is hope for a life after Facebook too.
Before deleting my Facebook site, I put the following post in all the groups which I was following or was a member off:
Hi. I am going to leave Facebook and delete my account because I am very upset about how they deal with their users data and with identity theft. They have 27 Martin Gummerts in most of them in the Philippines, and there is no single Martin Gummert in the Philippines besides me. They refuse to take action. I am a strong believer of “Customer is King” and I do believe we don’t need to follow whatever tech firms or politicians do if it does not confirm with our values.
I can be reached under:
Among the few things I am going to miss is this site. Is this site represented somewhere else in the Internet? Either as web page, in Twitter, or anywhere else? Would highly appreciate being able to get updates on what is happening here outside the Facebook environment.
What I was hoping for was that some of my 699 Facebook Friends would contact me in the future through other means and maybe follow what we do through Twitter and our Blog. And for links to some “traditional” web forums, like the 2-Ventiler forum in Germany with BMW Boxer engine owners, which is in fact classes better than any BMW Facebook site I have seen. And indeed the first comment I got was a referral by a member of a Wharram Facebook site to a regular forum on Wharrams, which supposedly also includes many of the members of the Facebook page. Nice.
What happened then put me at awe. I got lots of comments and questions from the members of the various groups, mostly questioning my decision. My first urge was to respond to each comment individually, clarify things and make people understand better why I made the decision to #DeleteFacebook. But I very quickly realised that that would be an impossible and useless undertaking since it would consume a lot of time and generate new comments and questions with no real benefit. It was interesting though. Responses / comments could be clustered under 7 different categories, 1. Helpful for what I had asked for, 2. Trying to be helpful for me staying on Facebook, 3. Regretful, 4. Justifying their own presence, 5. Insulting, 6. Genuinely interested in other topics, and 7. Interested in doing the same. My posts also got around 30 like icons and 6 surprised icons over a 2 week period. Since it is impossible to interpret what the “like” was for I did not include them in the quick and dirty assessment below.
Helpful for what I had asked for
Only two comments were actually addressing the questions I had asked and referred me to alternative web sites on motorcycles and Wharram boats.
Trying to be helpful for me staying on Facebook
Most initial comments were on how I could address the usage of my name by others by creating new accounts, with different names, or aliases, and by tweaking the privacy and safety settings of Facebook. Initially I responded to them saying that the use of my name is only a secondary issue and the data misuse by the company and their business model are my main reasons. Nevertheless these comments continued
A few comments, mostly from the Philippines and Germany were about loosing me as a community member. Sometimes combined with questions how we could stay in touch without Facebook.
Justifying their own presence on Facebook
These are the type for responses George Hanson referred to in Easy Rider, when being asked about freedom. These are hidden in different messages but I am pretty sure if a psychologist would analyse them he or she would come to a similar conclusion. What these people tried to do is to ridicule my decision, in my feeling in order to proof that their presence on Facebook is justified. Some in this group also don’t seem to care that their data is out there easily assessable. The “I don’t have anything to hide” response.
Some people thought they needed to point out how ignorant I am by assuming that Facebook is different than other platform, or any other tools for which data are collected, specifically mentioned were credit cards. I had the urge to respond to them but then, it would just be more of my time wasted trying to educate people who don’t want to know that the world is not just black and white.
Genuinely interested in other topics.
One respondent did not address the questions I asked or the Facebook issue at all but asked what I am doing in the Philippines, which led to some sub-group discussing San Miguel and Red Horse Beer.
Interest in doing the same
One old friend of mine asked what other platforms I am going to use, maybe out of interest whether leaving Facebook is an option for him.
I went through the process of deleting each individual picture and post I had made. It took me two hours and it turned out to be quite interesting. Until around 4 years ago all I had done was re-post other peoples posts. On average around 20 per year, so less than 2 per month. Then my own posts started, and increased every year, reaching around 200 per year in the last two years. With the increase in numbers there was a clear decrease in quality of my posts.
Leaving a Shadow Profile
There is talk about Facebook shadow profiles, profile that contain data of people who never signed up to Facebook. Zuckerberg avoided to comment on this during the recent Congress Hearings. I wanted to know what happened to the data I deleted. So a few days after I deleted everything, I downloaded all the contents about me that is on Facebook servers. It was a whopping 300 Mb, and when I opened the ZIP file I found all pictures and posts I had ever uploaded and all chats in chronological order, and with pictures. A handful of pictures were actually quite embarrassing, and were not posted by me but by chat mates.
I don’t believe the Zuckerbergs of this world a bit. So I assume that this data will remain as a shadow profile of Martin Gummert for eternity.