Deleting Facebook, Week One

As I wrote about last week, I deleted my Facebook profile on Monday. That date, April 23rd, marked fourteen years I had been on the platform. Guess what? I lasted two whole days before I reactivated it. (Cue Nelson Muntz and his famous “Ha ha!”)

Facebook makes a clear distinction between deleting your profile and deactivating it. You can find a “deactivation” link in your settings relatively easily. It will take you through a series of explanations and clicks, and make absolutely positively sure you want to deactivate. They will also guilt you with a few photos of friends which say above them “Fred will miss you”.

In order to delete your profile, however, you have to visit a link on a support page to go through the process. If you do elect to delete your profile, they inform you that you will be deactivated for fourteen days before deletion, and can reactivate your account at any point during that time. In other words, it’s clear that they do not want you to delete your account.

Before you laugh too hard at me only lasting two days, know I didn’t reactivate out of longing for social media, but out of necessity. Not long after deletion, I realized that I forgot to delete two of my dating app profiles: Hinge and The League. I had already deleted my Tinder and Bumble profiles in the lead up to April 23rd, finding those two apps to be worse than they used to be.

(As an aside, I think the dating app wave might be over. It was fun for a while, but it’s really a hit-or-miss system for meeting people. I find it downright awful for meeting someone you actually connect with. More on that another time.)

Also, I had a sneaky suspicion that Facebook was purposefully logging me out of Tinder to remind me that I needed a Facebook account in order to be on Tinder. Let me explain: on March 23rd, I posted on Facebook that I would be deleting my account, and used the hashtag “#deletefacebook”. I also posted numerous times to remind friends to contact me through some other medium of communication. Around the same time, I noticed Tinder forcing me to log back into Facebook in order to use Tinder.

That happened on more than one occasion, and it felt more frequent than in the past. I can’t say conclusively Facebook was logging me out, because there were updates to the Tinder app in that time period. But, it wouldn’t be difficult for Facebook to create a mechanism to begin terminating active sessions with apps for people who might be talking about deleting their profile. It would be hard to detect or prove, but would certainly be understood unconsciously by the user.

Today, 4/27/18, my Facebook profile is still active, for two reasons. First, I had to email The League asking them about profile deletion. They do not appear to have a mechanism to delete your profile, only “deactivate” it. Sadly, tricks like this are a common and alarming practice in the tech world. On numerous occasions, I’ve found it extremely difficult or simply impossible to delete a profile from a web application. Hopefully, I receive a positive and timely response.

Second, going through this process made me wonder what other applications I have tied to Facebook that I might have difficulty deleting. In the case of Hinge, I had an active profile, despite no longer having a Facebook page. With no means to login to Hinge, I wouldn’t be able to actually delete that profile. I also do not know if Hinge would purge my profile for not having a Facebook account any longer.

I know that most apps probably don’t have a cascading account deletion function. That is to say, if you login with Facebook, most applications seek to collect your email and have you create a password anyway. The good news is that Facebook gives you a list of the apps and sites you’ve connected to your account under Settings > Apps and Websites. And, recently, that section has been updated to show active and removed applications. A select few of them even allow you to request a profile deletion via Facebook. For most of the others, you have to login and delete them by hand.

So, I currently have an active Facebook profile and am in the process of purging my information from various sites I’ve used in the past. It is tedious, but this is the nature of the web these days. Facebook would never make it easy to purge data from various applications, just as those applications wouldn’t want to lose a user because we have a gripe with Facebook. Hopefully, I’ll work my way through this backlog in the next few days.

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