Towards the beginning of 2022, I made the decision to leave Facebook. This was not a decision that I took lightly. I engaged in long, emotional discussions with friends, family, and clergymen before telling Meta to delete my account.
“Can’t you just deactivate?” my niece asked me, tears welling in her eyes. She didn’t understand. How could she? She was only 2.
“Perhaps,” I said, stroking her long, white beard, “In another life.”
I gathered my supplies — Clif bars, Powerade, prayer beads — and set out on my journey. In only a few days, I managed to click the “delete my account” button. Now, the hard part would begin.
The Facebook account deletion process
Warning: This essay contains graphic depictions of data sanitization.
Most people don’t know that when you delete Facebook, the site begs you to stop.
You have so many friends, it says. Without you, suicide. Plague.
You must take these words seriously; they are not entirely without merit. In my case, I had assembled enough analytics to prove to myself, with statistical near-certainty, that I was making the right decision. I fed my spreadsheets into the Facebook deletion page, typing each line and column by hand. When the website disabled my keyboard, I drew the numbers with my mouse.
Fine, the website told me, Your reasoning is acceptable. Faulted, yes, but acceptable. Look at this picture of your dog from eight years ago. If you cannot be convinced, you may take the final step.
The sweat on my brow stung as it worked its way through the deep gashes on my forehead incurred during the final identity verification process. I took a bite of a Clif bar and called my dog into the room. His suffering was brief; mine was just beginning.
I had deleted Facebook.
The first days were difficult.
I had some fantastic ideas for posts — my neighbor cut down a tree, and I recorded the whole event. The footage synced perfectly with Genesis’s “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” (the live ‘73 performance). Several times, I had quirky encounters with restaurant waitstaff. I gave a bottle of water to my mailman and recorded the interaction with my door camera.
None of these moments would be preserved. None would be my legacy.
My God, I thought, What have I done? I wrote the words in a Microsoft Word document, then placed the thumbs up emoji next to it.
The diarrhea began almost immediately and did not end for five days. They had told me about the diarrhea, and I was prepared with Pedialyte and damp hand towels — but Meta had not warned me about the tooth loss, which began five days after deletion and lasted for a full 32 days.
The skin loss and bone fragmentation were probably the worst parts of the whole experience. Also, I realized that I was no longer able to find the location of my neighborhood’s Little Library Book Exchanges.
My condition began improving in mid-April. I wish that I could tell you that I turned a corner thanks to my own constitution, but this was not the case. I joined Twitter — only briefly — to stave off the worst symptoms. When the abscesses were severe, or when my body hair began self-bleaching, I would write a quick tweet to restore my reserves.
We need to talk about antisexual representation (or lack thereof) on Friends.
Hey, guys, it’s actually possible to use a public bathroom without being ableist. @ChelseaHandler @AimeeMann
Oh, now we’re talking about Iraq again? #BoycottYoplait #TeamUpForExcellence
But my goal was not to switch from one platform to another; it was to draw attention to myself by quitting social media entirely. After a brief weaning period, I deleted Twitter (I think).
It gets better.
I have become quite skillful with my walking cane, and while my days rarely start before noon, I have learned to take joy in the “little things” in life: Beekeeping, home improvement, day trading, and water polo. Mainly beekeeping.
My life is better without Facebook. I mean this truly. While I’ve lost a tool for communicating with my friends, colleagues, and neighbors, it turns out that none of those people really wanted to talk to me anyway.
If you’re thinking about deleting Facebook, I would not recommend it — unless you’re as strong and interesting as I am. In that case, embark upon the journey. You will darken one corner of your digital world, but the light will live on; you will find new worlds to explore, new sensations, new ways to love, and a fourth new thing.
I will remember my time on Facebook fondly, but I will not return. I do not think my body could withstand the Account Generation; even if this were not the case, I’ve gained too much.
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