Eight Things to Try Before Dumping Facebook

With all the news out, it may be tempting to outright delete your Facebook account, but consider trying these things first.
With all the news out, it may be tempting to outright delete your Facebook account, but consider trying these things first. Photo by Book Catalog via Flickr
With new allegations that Facebook opened portions of its platform, including private messages, to large business partners like Microsoft, Amazon and Netflix, it might be tempting to finally pull the plug on your involvement with the social media monolith. But, is that necessarily the best option for you?

Discussing this recently with friends, one of the first thoughts that came up was, "How will I keep up with acquaintances and distant family members?" The reality is we may not want to be in constant contact with that dear old auntie we never see or that guy from high school we used to hang out with, but unless you have contact information for them, Facebook is your best bet.

There is also the consideration that Facebook does help you share your own life with others and/or help you share your business interests. Despite all the problems it faces, Facebook is integral to certain parts of our lives that would be difficult for many to abandon. So, what do you do to limit the noise and protect your privacy? Try some of these before you go cold turkey.

Avoid using Facebook Messenger.

Messenger is a flawed app to begin with. The fact that it is detached from the main Facebook platform in mobile is already annoying. Now, add the apparent lack of privacy for users, your best bet is to use it only sparingly. There are plenty of better options for sharing a private message from texting and messaging apps to Slack and good old-fashioned email. If you do need to use it, don't over share and provide your friends a means of contacting you without it in the future.

Unfollow liberally.

If un-friending someone is a declaration of war, unfollowing is more like seeing caller ID and not answering the phone. Yeah, it's passive-aggressive, but it serves a purpose. Sometimes, those old friends who have crawled into a dark corner of the political world will make you want to shut them off completely. Thankfully, unfollowing them is the next best thing. And don't forget that you can unfollow posts from advertisers, groups, news organizations and even certain types of posts.

Limit your participation in groups and pages.

Liking pages and joining groups seems harmless enough until you start getting sponsored posts, ads and information you don't care about from Coca Cola or the model train collectors of America. Consider disabling your connections to any groups or pages that go beyond local businesses or people/companies you really like and want to hear from with regularity. Apple can live with a fewer likes and you will cut down on their access to you (and your friends).

Don't use your Facebook login to sign up for an app or third-party service.

It may be tempting to click the "sign up using Facebook" button when you are joining a new service, but it immediately links that service to your Facebook profile. Not only does it then allow sharing of loads of your information with that vendor and their partners — nevermind the extra advertising you get as a result — it often means your account with that service is directly tied to your Facebook login. So, if you do decide to ditch Facebook at some point, you will be severing your ties to that app whether you want to or not.

Save your event invites for other services.

This might be tough if you are a band or artist or company, but for individuals, Facebook is probably the worst option for setting up invitations to a party or event. There are SO many scheduled events and Facebook organizes them so poorly, it is difficult to find them in the first place. And if you are invited to an event, opt for sending a message to the host on your attendance. Signaling your attendance on Facebook means you are providing information like where you will be, who you will be with, etc. to a company that doesn't exactly seem all that concerned who knows it.

Turn off location services.

Location services are tremendously helpful when using a mobile device. They are essential to mapping technology and provide support when doing searches. But, they come at a cost. All of that data is recorded and stored. Those who can access it are able to see everywhere you've been, look at your routines and figure out your home address, work address, and so on. There is no sense in providing this directly to Facebook unless you really want to. And if you do, be aware of the information you are providing and use with caution.

Make use of the post privacy settings.

Whenever making a post to Facebook, consider using the privacy settings that allow you to choose who sees the post. Limit it to just your friends. Make an exclusive list for only your best pals. One of our favorite choices is the "Friends except..." option. This is particularly handy when you want to post something that is not appropriate for kids or certain family members or people you work with. It's also great if you want to alert people to a surprise party, but not the guest of honor.

Unplug often.

This is something we don't tell each other enough. Getting offline is healthy and allows you to focus on other things. Leave the phone behind sometimes. Don't open your social media apps for a couple days. Give yourself a break. It's good for you and, more importantly, helps you to put into perspective just how companies like Facebook have taken over our lives.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke