Why it's taken me an entire year to delete things from my Facebook, and why I did it

Why it's taken me an entire year to delete things from my Facebook, and why I did it

CultureJuly 18, 2016 By Brian Frederick

After thinking long and hard about it, I’ve decided that social media is one of the worst things to ever happen to us.

When I was 14, my parents spent a ton of money on a desktop computer. Back then, there was about 250 mb of memory on the hard drive, the CD-ROM was a 2x speed if you paid extra and it took about ten minutes to fully load anything worthwhile — all for around $2,000. Back then, that was livin’ the dream.

Then along came America Online, a dial-up program that opened an entirely new world to everyone in the know. My formative years from then on were spent picking up girls from other states and chatting to complete strangers about drugs and porn. It was a bizarre social world that I loved to be a part of. I even etched in a few lasting friendships that are still going strong today.

But it was frowned upon. Being online meant you were some sort of loner, a stalker — or single-handedly controlling the dark underworld of sex trafficking and bootleg CDs from Napster. Basically, people were as judgmental and closed-minded as they are now. No one really cared about the possibilities, of what resources could be readily available at the whim of a modem.

Technology, as it normally is, was way ahead of public perception.

AOL was its own monster. A user’s entire identity rested on the basis of creativity, or not. It wasn’t strange to see screen names the likes of “FunnnyBunny69” or “CoMpLETESkiiER420” scrolling through a chat room. What was strange was when someone actually used their real names. Everyone knew “BrendanJames” from Eau Claire, Wisconsin was an idiot — because he let people know who he really was.

Didn’t he know the Internet was full of murdering rapists?

In the ‘90s the Internet was a hobby. There wasn’t any way to order pizza, to do your banking, to pay taxes or wish grandma a happy birthday. Real life was removed from the virtual world. It kept it fun. It kept it safe. Unplugging the phone jack meant you could leave; there wasn’t any way for anyone online to reach you if something went awry. Besides, it charged by the minute. There's no way you wanted to spend any more time there than you had to.

But times change.

Facebook reigns now. It’s a place where everything and everyone are links away, whether they want to be or not. As time goes, so too does the building of infrastructure, the progression of technology. Lives of flesh and blood are continually being reduced to collection data and blue thumbs. Even if you wanted to, you’d have a hard (likely impossible) time of deleting an entire electronic presence from the connected world.

But I’m trying. For the last year I’ve used Facebook’s ‘Memories’ feature to go back and delete all the stupid shit I said in the past. Innocuous shit. Redundant shit. Things that I’d never say today and things that I never want to remember I said in the first place. It’s taken almost 365 days, but I feel like it’s worth it.

“Well, that sure was incredible,” six years later means nothing. I don’t fucking remember what was so incredible. The fuck did I even post that? No one cared then, no one cares now.

That’s not to say that it’s completely gone. Let’s be honest, a ‘delete’ button probably doesn’t mean anything right now. Companies like Google and Facebook get paid for the amount of data they stockpile. If everyone began taking everything offline, right now, the behemoths would probably rely on backup discs to pad the loss. I’m not 100 percent on this, but I wouldn’t put it past anything anymore.

Plus, Facebook hates it when I delete things from my timeline. Try it out for yourself. I use an iPhone, and if I delete more than a few things, the app conveniently 'crashes' and I have to reboot. Then, I’ll go back onto ‘Memories’ and keep deleting still. If I get 8 years back, it won’t even let me erase posts — it gives me an error message.

After everything you see is gone, go ahead and refresh the page. You’ll see more posts of yours pop up. ‘Memories’ only gives you what it wants to give you. Doing this two or three times often works to get everything off. Or at least, it has for me so far.

We’re never going to completely rid ourselves of the things we post online. It’s there for the rest of humanity to search in the future. Luckily, at a point where I was getting into trouble and doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I didn’t have social media. My criminal records are all but forgotten because they were recorded on actual paper. I lucked out.

Many of you won’t, though, and are burdened with the task of not only making everyone in the real world think of you as a decent person, but also the judgmental hacks in the online one.

It’s easier if you’re not even there. Control what it is you want the rest of the world to see.

Real life is out there, and it’s a far more interesting place to be anyways.