Wherever I look, the papers, my RSS feeds, Twitter, … Facebook: it’s people complaining about Facebook. But to me it seems a bit like people that binge-drink every night complaining about beer.
There are many problems with Facebook currently, particularly when used the way most of us seem to use it. And apparently using it the way most people do, causes them to take leaves of their senses and yield autonomous control over how they use it altogether.
So, here’s my tips on how to get control of your life back, without having to go full on attention prossie and drama royalty and threaten to leave your mates:
You don’t want to be notified
The primary vector for addiction on Facebook are the reactions, but the real kicker is the fact that you keep getting buzzed for each reaction posted.
You’re probably someone who says they’re on Facebook to know what their friends and family have been up to and maybe to find fun events or kill some time when you have nothing better to do, right? You don’t need your phone or your web browser to remind you to come back every couple of minutes.
So go into your phone’s settings, and turn off all notifications for the Facebook app. Don’t leave it up to the app itself, just shut it out altogether – you have literally no need for those notifications and you can catch up in your own time.
And tell your web browser the same, no notifications – if you don’t know how, an easy way to double check all the stuff you told Facebook not to bother you with comes up if you get rid of your Facebook cookie (see below) and then this:
You can use a password manager
Unless the basic concept of using a computer is still quite daunting to you, you can use a password manager like everyone else. Lastpass, Keepass, you name it.
What does this have to do with Facebook? Just go on Facebook and check Settings – Apps and see how many applications you’ve authorised to get (some of) your info from Facebook. In many cases, you will have authorised them because you wanted to use Facebook to log you in automatically. It’s convenient, sure, but it also requires that you are always logged in for it to work smoothly.
(note that many will be apps on your phone, others will be websites – I’m only talking about the websites here, because some apps may even require you to log in using Facebook. Check them carefully though. Do you even use those apps?)
I cannot stress enough how important and frankly ridiculous this is. We complain about Facebook threatening our privacy, but most of its users are always logged in to it from our web browsers. You’re willingly giving your information to Facebook with every site you visit. Do you just close the Facebook tabs when you’re done, or do you log out first? Do you even know where the link to log out is? (It’s at the bottom of the menu with the little arrow, all the way in the top right)
With a password manager installed, this is what I’m greeted with when visiting facebook.com:
Always being logged in on your browser means Facebook can see where you’re browsing, what sites you visit and depending on how deeply they are integrated with sites you’re not even logged in to, even what you’re buying or looking at. And the only reason you’re logged in is because you’re either too lazy to set up a password manager once, or to click the ‘log out’ link on your way out.
If you don’t have two-factor authentication on your Facebook, you can also choose to install a browser plugin that just deletes the cookie for a website you’re on (like this one https://goo.gl/7Arruy) – having one of those is a good idea anyway. If you’re on Facebook and you hit the button, it logs you off and forgets all about you and that site.
But doing this also causes your browser to forget that you told Facebook you don’t want two-factor authentication every single time. So, you have a choice to make. But please don’t disable two-factor over this – I’d recommend you keep using it and either enter it every time you want to get on Facebook (if you don’t want it bad enough to enter the number, why are you even going there?) or just use the menu ‘log out’ option.
A reality check
You don’t just have to believe me either. Your paranoia alone isn’t the best adviser, so why not go and check for yourself? Let’s say you’re reading the NY Times. Who’s reading along. If you use Chrome, like I do, you can just click the lock icon (with ‘secure’ next to it in friendly, glowing green letters):
Whoa, 160+ cookies huh? (and that’s after a few reloads, I started out with over 300) And sure enough, if you open the long list, Facebook is in there. You’ll find that Facebook stays in there, even if you removed your cookie, but if you look at the information that’s on that specific cookie, your personal information will no longer be there. Now you’re just a part of the faceless masses – still getting tracked, but at least you have some anonymity back, for what it’s worth.
Try this on sites you visit regularly while logged in to Facebook and you’ll start to get a sense of exactly when Facebook is hitching a ride and looking over your shoulder.
You probably don’t have to use it
Many apps present you with an easy Facebook login button. It’s tempting, I know, but frequently there will be an option to just sign up for the app using your e-mail address instead. Go through your list of apps (Facebook web page, down arrow at top right, Settings, Apps on the left) and just check them. Do they really require Facebook as a login?
You may not mind for some apps and services, but don’t assume you have to use it if you’d rather Facebook didn’t know about your use of the app. And if you switch from using a Facebook login to using an account specifically for that app, remember your password manager (don’t reuse passwords, reusing passwords is bad, m’kay?) and remember to remove the app’s permissions from Facebook – they sure won’t do it for you.
Logging out on the phone?
If you want to use the Facebook app on your phone (have you considered just getting rid of it and only browsing Facebook on your tablet or PC?), logging off every time is likely too much trouble – it is for me, and I do use the app. But at least you can limit how intrusive the app is.
And if you do use the app, consider getting rid of other Facebook apps, like Facebook Messenger. Signal is good. Or maybe Whatsapp (also owned by Facebook, but at least it’s somewhat properly encrypted and doesn’t track the content of what you’re saying) are good alternatives. Just compare the level of access the Facebook Messenger demands from your phone to what these apps require and decide for yourself. And ask yourself: do you really want this company reading along with everything you’re saying and everything that’s said to you?
And speaking of permission: does Facebook really need that permission to read your location or listen to your microphone? Of course, if you specifically use features like checking in or recording audio fragments, it will – but the problem with almost all smartphones is you grant this permission either not at all, or completely. So, you have no way of telling easily when Facebook is keeping tabs on where you are (or, according to some, what sounds are around you, although I’d take any stories like that with a grain of salt).
The point is: if you don’t need Facebook to have these permissions, take them away. You can always grant them later. See the slides under ‘You don’t want to be notified’ for the location of the setting.
Please do ask, I’d happily update this page if something is unclear about it, or if you feel I’ve missed an important option or setting.