Breaking up with Facebook is apparently as difficult as breaking up with a bad boyfriend or girlfriend who won’t accept your decision. That’s the experience Henry Grabar of Slate had when he stopped signing on. He stopped logging in on June 6 and stayed off Facebook for ten days. He had been a member for over ten years and this was the longest period he had remained off the social network. But Facebook didn’t leave him alone. He received 17 email messages in a span of nine days urging him to return.
Grabar is not alone in trying to wean himself off Facebook for various reasons. Some do it because they realize it can be a waste of time, while others do it because of the company’s inability to protect (or lack of interest in protecting) its members’ personal data. The company has mistakenly released data of nearly 100 million of its members and friends of members to third parties, and many of them have used the data for illicit purposes. While Facebook says they are not losing members, some recent statistics paint a different story. According to a Pew study, only 51 percent of U.S. teenagers use the service now, down from 71 percent in 2015. This was the first time the numbers have fallen.
Grabar found that the messages he received actually reinforced his decision to stay off the platform. On one day he received two emails telling him a distant friend had posted a new photo. On another day he received a message telling him that 88 people liked a post in a group he belonged to. And on another day he received an email telling him there was a post to his college alumni group.
A few days later he was notified in an email that a few dozen members of a group he belonged to had commented about a news article. The email notices followed along these lines and included more messages about Facebook friends adding new photos or commenting on other posts, and even emailing him reminders to “see what people are talking about in your group.” Then he received an email in the middle of the night asking, “You up? How about a little late-night content from a guy on your soccer team who is the little brother of your colleague’s boyfriend?”
The following day there was an email saying, “5 people like a post in your group.” And another: “603 people like a photo in your group.” It continued much like this over the ten days he was off.
Now you’d think this annoyance would cement his decision to stay off, but, no, the writer decided he was missing too much and signed back on to Facebook.
“Two people. Like a post. In a group. This was probably the least inviting email of all, but it also happened to be the last one,” he wrote. “Later that day I was back on my old computer … and back, with a quick Command-T, F, enter, on Facebook.”