It’s been a miserable week, or rather several weeks, I should say, for Facebook. The once seemingly unstoppable company admitted on Wednesday that data analyst firm Cambridge had accessed the profiles of 87 million (up from a previous 50 million) users. And that was after it spent months confronting outrage over its role in spreading fake news in the US, the UK and other countries.
It’s all enough to make you delete Facebook completely, which many people are doing (there’s even a hashtag for that). But that’s a big step, and I understand that even with the social network’s snowballing scandals you may not be ready.
Go ahead, click that little “x” and watch the Facebook app disappear.
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET
Up until last month, I wasn’t ready, and I felt that I had a good reason. During the three years that I lived in London, Facebook was a valuable expat tool for staying connected with everyone back home. But since I moved back to California three weeks ago, it no longer fills as sharp of a need. Now my family and longtime friends are just a few minutes, rather than an ocean, away. To catch up on our lives, I can just see them in person.
Severing the link completely remains the ultimate goal, but I’ll need just a bit longer for that. So I took a more realistic, but still powerful, step in the meantime: I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.
While living in London, Facebook was my photo album for connecting with friends back home. But that’s changed since I’ve moved back.
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET
I had tried this a couple of years ago while still in London, but drifted back quickly as Facebook’s mobile site is an exercise in frustration. Two weeks into my latest experiment, I don’t miss the app at all and my Facebook behavior has changed radically. Making the social network more difficult to use has made me use it far less.
Sure, I still check my feed, but only on the desktop site where the experience is tolerable. Limiting that time is another matter, but scanning my feed for a few minutes twice a day (such as once when I start the workday and once before I leave) is a good place to start.
As for my own updates, I’ve almost stopped posting completely. That part was easier than I thought — I’ve largely used Facebook as a travel photo album, anyway — and it means no more notifications to constantly check.
Facebook critics can point out that the data I’ve already shared is still the property of Mark Zuckerbug’s empire. That’s certainly true, but my primary objectives were stopping the obsessive scrolling and focusing my attention elsewhere. So far, I’ve accomplished those goals just by clicking the tiny “x” on the wiggling app and watching it vanish from my home screen. My thumb is getting a break, as well, and there’s one fewer data-hungry app draining my phone’s battery.
Now I just have to ease up on Twitter. But you’ll have to give me much more time for that.
Now Playing: Watch this: Protect your data on Facebook
If you decide to delete your Facebook app, I’d recommend taking a few steps first:
Go to the Timeline and Tagging page of the Settings menu. To avoid embarrassing posts showing up on your Timeline without your knowledge (remember, you’re not constantly checking your feed), change the setting of “Who can post on your timeline?” at the top of the page to