Seriously Facebook, WTF?
As many know, I deleted my Facebook nearly two years ago. It was the best decision I ever made. I could truthfully go on forever with a post about how life-changing deleting my Facebook account was, but I’m not going to (right now). Numerous people have written about this. The great supercomputer in the sky is probably creating some huge database on the effects of Facebook on the human condition based on the stories. I don’t need to add mine.
I am only bothering to say anything else about Facebook because it has gone from the point of mild annoyance to complete creepiness. That is literally the only word I can use to describe it. Creepy like Airbnb hosts spying on their guests. At least in that scenario, you walk into the situation knowing there is some inherent risk in staying in a stranger’s home.
However, I trusted Facebook.
Laughable I know; but not the kind of trust that most Facebook users likely have … the trust that Facebook will use your data in an honorable fashion.
No, I trusted Facebook to mean it when they said I could delete my account. Maybe I didn’t read the fine print. Maybe it actually meant that I could delete my supplied content, but that they will retain all of my connections, and tie it back to any new profiles. This way they can continue to entice me to once again form personal connections with the people in my life so that I can openly share my data for their use.
I’m not connecting.
Here’s why I came to that conclusion.
In 2016, I deleted my Facebook account. I then realized that I needed to maintain my Facebook pages, so I had my son create a Facebook so that I could still market my freelance writing business. My son relucted (he hates Facebook), but I pulled the mom card.
Using a cell phone, I created a new account, regained ownership of pages and joined the groups that I needed to maintain for my offline life. I accepted no friend requests, and I told no one about my profile. It was peaceful. It was the perfect mixture of anonymity and convenience. I had won.
Until I forgot my password. I couldn’t get a reset, because my son lost his telephone, and I had no email addresses to give Facebook that it didn’t already know. No worries, I had the browser set to remember the password.
Now if only I had set the browser in my brain to remember the fact that I did not actually know my Facebook password anymore. Perhaps if I had, I wouldn’t have system restored that computer in frustration that one night, erasing all my stored passwords.
My anonymous Facebook was gone.
For about six months, I mourned not being able to communicate with my Facebook groups. Although I had created connections on Instagram, it wasn’t the same. Facebook groups were the closest I could get to chat rooms from back in the good ol’ days, where people convened around common interests or identities. In my case, my group was an actual community group. These were people I saw on a regular basis but rarely held conversations with face to face. We simply smiled and waved, keeping it polite. In public, there was no conversation. On Facebook there was, and I could spend hours reading it all — getting to know them better.
I had lost that, and I felt incredibly out of the loop. It was a good thing though because during that time I was more willing to travel. I wanted to be exposed to new things and have conversations with new people. Facebook groups used to do that for me, now travel does. I began using Instagram to document my travels and priority shifts.
But last month, I figured it was time to return. I needed to connect with my community to seek help, and Facebook was, unfortunately, the best way to do it since they choose to congregate there.
So, I set up an email address from my ISP. My last vestige of anonymity. A shiny, brand new email account. I signed up for Facebook with my online name, Jenn Marie, and friended my daughter so that the group would recognize me. It was the exact same thing that I had done when I signed up with a cell phone months prior.
Except this time, it was different. My screen cluttered with suggested friends. All friends of my daughter. That’s acceptable.
Then on the second day, the random posts began showing up on my feed. Demographic filtering based on my profile and choice of groups. Perhaps pages liked by members in my group. Acceptable.
Then on the third day, the suggestions got smarter. Now I was seeing friends that my daughter and I had in common. There were a few because my daughter has 1200 friends — all of which she has actually met in person. That was our rule. Acceptable.
Then on the fourth day, I noticed something strange. Facebook was suggesting friends that I did indeed know, that my daughter did not.
Some were friends of my dad, who’d friend requested me after Facebook likely recommended it to him. I ignored his request. He started posting screenshots of the news articles about his book on my public wall. Maybe he will be banned again. He called me a month ago to tell me Facebook locked him out for being a spammer. He was genuinely confused as to why, because he does the same exact thing in person.
Some were members of the groups that I was connected with. From what I could tell, they were the ones that liked my group posts, or people that actually knew me and were excited that I finally had a Facebook. I posted a status update. “No Facebook Friend Request will be approved.” I didn’t want to come across as rude.
It was now my fifth day back on Facebook. I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to hide at least three non-relevant posts every time I log in. Over time, my home screen would reflect what I actually wanted to see. I learned to ignore the friend suggestions. Then I noticed a disturbing trend.
My People You Know suggestions started to get way too smart. Now it was suggesting people from my Instagram account. That’s not strange, right? Well, my Instagram account was created separately from my Facebook account, but I linked it to find new people to follow just before deleting my Facebook. It also uses an email address not associated with Facebook. I did that so that I could create an Instagram that was separate from my Facebook. I wanted the freedom to create without being under the judge-full eye of my ‘friends’. I made my Instagram public and sought out a new community — one based on shared interests and not necessarily life connections.
I couldn’t understand how Facebook knew to connect my Instagram account with my newly created Facebook which used a brand new, dedicated email address, has only one connection, and two uploaded pictures, neither of which are on Instagram…
Then it hit me. My profile picture wasn’t on Instagram, but a similar picture was.
Was it my IP address? That’s creepy as well. It’s been nearly two years.. couldn’t someone else possibly being using this IP address after a few months? However, it is the only constant between my deleted account, Instagram account and new account that the cell phone-linked account (which did not seem to know me) may not have shared..
The connections weren’t just Instagram connections either. They were also many of my previous connections on Facebook from two years ago that did not have Instagram accounts, or that I didn’t want to stay connected with and did not connect with on Instagram. There they were, staring me in the face, asking to be connected again.
Really? Is it that serious Facebook? Is my content worth that much to you? I will not connect over your platform unless it helps me in some way.
Perhaps I was careless to upload a profile picture that was similar to a picture posted on Instagram. Perhaps I had unknowingly told Facebook who I was so that it could gather as much social data on me as possible to serve me smarter recommendations.
How considerate of you, Facebook!
I did not feel like I consented to this, and I am definitely creeped out by it. Totally not surprised, however.
One request. If you find my Facebook account do not friend request me. Facebook will assume you know me. Or better yet, friend request me and let’s try to water down the algorithm a bit. In a world addicted to Facebook, I’m attempting to live as clean as possible. I welcome online communities, but social media sites are exactly what they sound like. Your social life and how it interacts with others on display over a widespread media. However, I feel that as an individual, I should have more transparency around how that data is used..