What I Learned from Hacking My Facebook Data
How well does Facebook know me compared to how well I know myself?
Let’s get the elephant out of the room and take a couple seconds to freak out about how American internet privacy protections are out the door.
(Breathe in and out. This article continues; don’t worry.)
Great. Now as many of you may better understand, I become increasingly aware of my tech usage as each day passes. My increasing awareness is also thanks to some Black Mirror episodes—you can say I’m more paranoid too. But overall, I love exploring the intersection of tech and humanity.
With all interests I pick up, I perform experiments to learn more about them and, more importantly, learn more about myself. The intersection of tech and humanity constantly makes me think about how I’m using tech to best serve me and my purpose as well as how tech is designed in a human-centered way.
My first experiment asked two questions: how often do I use Facebook and How well does Facebook know me compared to how well I know myself? I started using Data Selfie for this purpose—a tool that pulls data points from people’s Facebook usage. Through this tool, I’m able to analyze my actions and the several inferences Facebook makes about me through those actions.
I chose to perform this experiment for 1 month, which I believe is ample time to gather some sort of depiction on me. I predicted that my minimal Facebook usage wouldn’t garner any information that was remotely close to who I really am as a person.
Here’s what Data Selfie collected throughout my one month test:
Here you can see that I’ve looked at posts from 247 friends, seen posts from 268 pages, and only liked posts 14 times. Surprisingly, Data Selfie says I’ve spent 196.57 hours on Facebook—which I strongly think is Facebook running in the background.
The photo above shows my information clouded by political content (who would’ve guessed). I would like to say that I would agree with my Big 5 Personality predictions except for openness; though, that’s for everyone else to guess or try to get to know better!
Some cool touch points in my last section of data included the accuracy of my political and religious views. The section that says “Other Predictions” is a section that I definitely don’t pay mind to, and the predictions made from my typing actions were mostly inaccurate.
The exploration from my month’s worth of data was scattered on the accuracy scale. However, considering I’ve been on Facebook for about 6 years, these algorithms have a lot to munch on.
The information that floats around on Facebook alone is complex. Scrolling through 250+ friends and making decisions for over 260+ posts is completely draining. And, although I didn’t receive an accurate timing of my Facebook usage, I know I’ll be taking the following steps to better improve my online habits:
- Installing Facebook News Feed Eradicator
- Bookmarking the Facebook profiles and pages I care about
(Subject to change. I told you I love experiments, right?)
Let me know what your social media habits are and if you’ve tried Data Selfie! I’m interested to see what kind of predictions Facebook says about you, especially if you are a heavy Facebook user.
Love this topic? Here’s more great content that might interest you:
- Jonathan Safran Foer: technology is diminishing us
Have you found yourself checking email at dinner, or skipping from book to screen, unable to focus? The closer the world gets to our fingertips, the more we stand to lose
- If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy by Walter Kirn
As government agencies and tech companies develop more and more intrusive means of watching and influencing people, how can we live free lives?
- The Minimalists Podcast Episode 002: Technology
- WNYC Studios’ Note To Self Podcast
Host Manoush Zomorodi for reminds us to question everything. Is your phone watching you? Can wexting make you smarter? Are your kids real? These and other essential quandaries for anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age.
Thanks for reading! You’ll be able to find more content on my Twitter page.