Social Enterprise

You're dumped: The day I ditched Facebook

Why one silicon.com reporter has changed her relationship status with the social networking giant...

Today I ceased to exist. I left my friends, family and favourite quotes behind. My photos are gone and my history has disappeared.

I've leapt into the abyss of life without Facebook. Today, I deactivated my account.

For now, my online self waits in a kind of cyber limbo. Only half killed off, the online Shelley waits to be reactivated or deleted with a week of Facebook abstinence to decide her fate.

But why put my online self through this self-imposed purgatory in the first place?

When Facebook first graced the internet with its presence, it promoted itself as a site where friends could share photos and update each other with witty status messages.

It wasn't long, however, before Facebook started attracting criticism for its lax attitude towards user privacy and lawsuits started landing on founder Mark Zuckerberg's desk.

This week, Facebook introduced a facial-recognition feature. By analysing faces of its users, it aims to recognise when they appear in photos posted to the site by others, and suggest they be tagged accordingly.

Like many features on the social-networking site, it is an opt-out service. As a result, its millions of users are now included in a facial-recognition database, even if they may not wish to be.

In 2003, silicon.com reported on the mythical Beast of Brussels - a supercomputer that collects personal data on all EU citizens. The myth held that the Beast knew all about us and could identify people by an invisible tattoo on their forehead which could be seen by infrared scanners, tracking people as they went about their day.

Of course, the Beast is fictional. But Facebook - with its ceaseless desire to know every last scrap of information about us without necessarily informing us it's gathering these snippets of our lives - is coming to bear a closer resemblance to the myth than many would like. After all, who needs invisible tattoos when there are millions of users unwittingly providing photos of themselves to a huge biometric database?

Privacy concerns or no privacy concerns, Facebook continues to grow in popularity, exceeding 600 million users in January of this year.

Driven in large part by the success of Facebook, social networks have now become the most popular online destination in the UK, with Facebook mopping up over half of all that social media traffic.

Why is this the case? Are people of my generation, the Gen Yers, simply not concerned about their privacy, or is it that Facebook is now so enmeshed in their lives they're willing to hold on to their accounts at all cost to their privacy?

Some of my friends have increasingly upped the privacy settings of their Facebook accounts as they leave the relatively consequence-free life of university and begin to realise the importance of having a clean digital history, while others I know have even resorted to using fake names in an attempt to make themselves untraceable.

But when we give away so much data on our Facebook profiles, is that enough?

Is it time to delete your Facebook profile?

Is it time to delete your Facebook profile?Image: Facebook

During a heated discussion on the subject here at Silicon Towers, I realised all eyes had turned to me as the silicon.com millennial guinea pig. Would I do it? Could I give up Facebook to protect my privacy? Gulp.

In the name of journalistic research, I decided to take the scary step - yes, I felt actual fear - and agreed to deactivate my account for a week and to record my experience.

In a week's time, judgement day will befall my online soul as I review how easy - or painful - it is to live without Facebook, and decide whether to bring my profile back to life or carry on with my Faceless existence.

At least they let me keep my Twitter...

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