I, too, downloaded my Facebook data (and learned some weird things about myself)

Many people I follow on Twitter, the best people, have all been downloading copies of their Facebook data (the first piece I read at length about it recently was Arwa Mahdawi’s in the Guardian last week, before all the Cambridge Analytica stuff broke).

So I decided I had to see for myself. You can’t download everything — no, it can’t show you who has stalked you the most—but the data you can get is illuminating enough. (More from Facebook here on what categories of data you can download.)

I’ve never lasted more than a week without looking at Facebook. My Facebook activity definitely peaked in college, and I tried really hard to cut myself. I de-activated and re-activated my account 20 times, for instance, during a November to December finals period in 2010. I never lasted longer than one week off the platform.

The next time I de-activated was in March and April of 2013, when I was studying for the GRE, back when I thought I should go to graduate school for something. I never lasted more than a week off platform.

All of the phone numbers. I found a bunch of phone numbers for people whose phone numbers I didn’t think I had (including journalists. I also have contact information for all the AirBnB hosts I’ve stayed with over the years. I assume they have my contact information as well. Oh yeah, and a guy I went on some dates with whose number I deleted from my phone and who I’d been trying to ghost.

I only recently started clicking on ads, and I click on a ton of them. Just in the past month I’ve clicked on a dozen product ads (all clothing and skincare), an ad for what I thought was a Beyonce concert that turned out to be an ad for a “Beyonce experience” at the Boston Museum of Science (which I went to, by the way), a DJ Khaled ad (what????????), an ad for Splice Newsroom (whose founders I work with through my day job), and an NPR ad soliciting reader suggestions for greatest albums made by women. As my colleague Laura and I were discussing recently, Facebook’s ad targeting has been pretty damn effective of late (at least for us).

You can see friend requests you’ve declined and friends you’ve actively removed. I purged most heavily the summer after I graduated college. I’ve always become Facebook friends with my bosses the very day I start those new jobs. Not sure what this means.

Sometime between 2014 and 2015, I became nervous about my online security and information. I changed my birthdate, removed contact information, slowed my rate of posting significantly, purged a ton of friends, stopped allowing other people’s photos to appear on my Timeline and seem to have untagged myself in a ton of photos, and so forth.

I see so much content from media organizations in my News Feed. My “ad topics” list, which shows “a list of topics that you may be targeted against based on your stated likes, interests and other data you put in your timeline,” is news, news, and more news, with the exception of locations (Somerville, MA, where I live, Williamstown MA, where I’m from, New York, NY where I frequently visit) and professional wrestling (again, ???????????). I mean, I do ‘like’ a bazillion news organizations and use Facebook primarily to keep tabs on these news organizations’ Facebook strategies. Look at this ridiculous ad topics list!

  • Serial (radio and television)
  • McSweeney’s
  • Mashable
  • Re/code
  • Journalism
  • guardian
  • NPR
  • Vox Media
  • Technology
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Welt am Sonntag
  • The Daily Dot
  • Newspapers
  • Democracy Now!
  • Time
  • News agency
  • ProPublica
  • Vox (blogging platform)
  • News magazine
  • Bloomberg News
  • The Intercept
  • mother jones
  • Süddeutsche Zeitung
  • WCVB-TV
  • The Washington Post
  • WCVB Channel 5 Boston
  • BBC News (TV channel)
  • WHDH (TV)
  • Bloomberg
  • New York Post
  • Massachusetts
  • The Awl
  • Financial Times
  • The Daily Beast
  • The Hill (newspaper)
  • The New Yorker
  • USA Today
  • Financial services
  • NBCUniversal
  • NowThis
  • The Atlantic
  • Die Zeit
  • MSN
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • BBC World Service
  • Nieman Foundation for Journalism
  • Tech News
  • WBUR-FM
  • Washington Post World
  • ESPN
  • This American Life
  • London Review of Books
  • WBUR 90.9 FM
  • Radio
  • NBC News
  • Planet Money
  • Movies
  • Wired (magazine)
  • BBC
  • Bloomberg L.P.
  • Serial (podcast)
  • NowThis News
  • The Independent
  • PolitiFact.com
  • Ars Technica
  • Fast Company (magazine)
  • Time (magazine)
  • BBC News
  • Information
  • Quartz (publication)
  • Mass media
  • The New York Times
  • MIT Technology Review
  • Politico
  • NBC
  • The Paris Review
  • FRONTLINE
  • New York (magazine)
  • Reuters
  • WNYC
  • national geographic
  • Spiegel Online
  • Quartz
  • Slate (magazine)
  • The Telegraph
  • Photography
  • Foreign Policy (magazine)
  • Televisions
  • Longreads
  • Die Welt
  • Columbia Journalism Review
  • National Review
  • Podcast
  • Center for Public Integrity
  • The Boston Globe
  • Television station
  • Bloomberg Television
  • Mother Jones (magazine)
  • Los Angeles Times
  • The Berkshire Eagle
  • The Harvard Crimson
  • Hill
  • FiveThirtyEight
  • Der Spiegel
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • NBCNews.com
  • Berkshire County, Massachusetts
  • The Guardian
  • SportsCenter
  • Politics
  • Investigative journalism
  • Current events
  • Tasty

I also recognized in data other things about personal milestones and life events. That I’m keeping to myself for now — but Facebook knows it all already.

(To check out your own data, go to your Facebook settings and then “Download a copy of your Facebook data.” It’ll take a little while to gather up archives and email you a copy.)