How to permanently erase your Facebook account

On: September 29, 2009
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About Radmila Radojevic
I am a communications professional from Montreal, Canada. Much of my experience is in the cultural sector and community-driven initiatives. I worked and volunteered for various community and art groups in Montreal (CKUT, university and community radio station, Studio XX, a feminist digital arts organization, Maid in Cyberspace, an annual arts festival organized by Studio XX, Eyesteelfilm, a social documentary film company etc.) Currently doing my MA at UvA. My main interests are in data visualization and locative media.

Website
http://www.alimdar.net    

As one of unique experiences of cyberspace and virtual environments is this feeling that you have been transported “from an ordinary into a pure imaginary space”. Real time interaction enforces this feeling by making irrelevant notions such as distance. It is applicable in the physical world, yet here becomes an option since you can relocate at any time. As we navigate online spaces, we come across symbolic boundaries that we are invited to reconstruct by participation. As boundaries of the space as we know it slowly ‘dissolve’ here, it seems as we are moving in a non replica of a ‘real space’, but rather in something other (more) than that.

Description of online experience such as the above, inspired many cyber-fantasies, especially in the 90’s. Cyberspace had been an open metaphor for artists, intellectuals, hackers, me, you etc. It had been seen as a place where we could project and reconstruct our collective consciousness in a way differing from other media such as TV.  A group of artists from the 90’s described it as space that “brings within our grasp the dream of no longer having to experience a film or a scene as a passive observer but being able to join the action, thus transforming architectural fantasy into reality, or reality into fantasy”(much like telepresence experience). It is practically “mind and media merging”, one of them claimed. William Gibson described it as an all-immersive environment where you: “can literally wrap yourself in media and not have to see what’s going on around you”. Another intriguing definition from the time of cyber-utopias: “cyberspace scatters our thoughts and images differently to align them in new way”. Finally, cyber-utopia stretched back to the very beginnings of the Internet when techno-libertarians envisioned it as a space where dynamic of our social relations transform under its inherent globalizing forces. According to this view, computer technology enables person-to-person interaction and makes information widely accessible bringing empowerment and freedom. This was expected to enable forming of online communities, self-informed citizens and all together different social milieu.

Yet, as the Internet has been much more territorialized, privatized and commercialized since 2000, concepts of online space have become  less ‘visionary’. The ‘spell’ of ‘cyber-utopias’ and ‘the other space’ of the Internet was broken. We have learned that our online social environment cannot be seen otherwise than as an extension of our ‘real’ social enviroment.  Narratives on the Net reflect those in real life. Navigating experiences often replicate those of our physical world. The very semantic of the Internet is grounded in laws of physics (‘go’, ‘back’, ‘return’, ‘proceed’ etc.). The issues of gender, race and ethnicity haven’t disappeared there either. Finally, the laws from our real social environment have extended to the Internet, as well. Apparently, we have difficulties getting over ‘gravity’ and our geographical notions and specifications. We are socially determined beings carrying the baggage of this world with us into the cyberspace. The cyber-utopian enthusiasm of the 90’s diminished significantly.

Furthermore, commercializing of the Internet has affected the way we interact and think online. Though Web 2.0 and social networking sites have been recognized for its potential of democratizing communication online,  most of  their platforms seem to be enforcing weak social connections. By ‘weak’ I mean a kind of motivation /interaction behind sites such as Facebook. As a part of the assignment for this week, I have tested this platform and briefly compared the experience with another, newly developing (Ning). “Profile /Home page” is (narcissistically) central to Facebook interface. Most of the activities seem to revolve around building a public image of yourself. Posting random photos, fun videos and collecting friends have become a massive obsession. There are cases of kids being threatened by school bullies because they didn’t accept their friends’ invites. Beside this common interest of friend collecting, one could also install various applications to ‘keep in touch’ with her/his very friends, sending them virtual kisses, hugs and drinks. She can subscribe to pages of her favorite writers, film directors, musicians, but apparently right after the click most of the people almost instantly forget/ rarely visit. In similar fashion many ‘pages of interests’ are neglected, number of its posts poorly disproportionate to number of its actual members. They have been kept busy on their FarmVille collecting virtual pears and plums and milking a virtual cow. Or filling out one of the quizzes to find out which color represents their inner personalities or which scene from a movie triggers memory of it. I can’t resist the feeling that Facebook has been used by a large number of its citizens for very superficial kind of ‘connecting’. However, I do know some successfully networks that are connected mostly trough newsletters, rather than trough active postings and discussions. They are subscribers due to the fact that nowadays everyone has a Facebook profile. You almost cannot avoid it. My research is not definite, these are really my subjective impressions. My experience could be questioned and my eyes opened to its more sophisticated social and /or creative uses.

The fact that Facebook doesn’t allow for personalizing a home page felt like a constraint. Also, the information I was to provide about myself felt like filling out a maketing survey rather than building my personal profile. My ‘home’ page represented me in a very limited way – in terms of listing my ‘interests’ (my favorite choice of films, writers, friends, drinks, photos, videos). According to Chandler, home pages are objects that enable the author to think about their identity, much like Foucault’s technologies of the self that also “allow us to transform the very way we think of ourselves and to change ourselves to who we really want to be”.

Furthermore, there has been much research on Facebook potential /intention for data harvesting and tracking of our social habits. This has been supported by suspicious privacy features of the platform such as the fact that one cannot really erase his/her account as well as Facebook’s ‘ ‘silent-data-collecting’ potential (see here).

Anyway, I have quickly moved to Ning and have been still testing it together with my MoM colleges, but one refreshing thing I noticed right away was that its interface centers more around community rather than an individual which seemed encouraging.

I did one important, quick comparison as I was really curious to find out:
You cannot erase account of your Facebook, unless

Yet, Ning allows it (unless my lawyer- amateur reading of it is totally off) see here

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