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The Return of Facebook

I quit Facebook on Jan. 1. I signed back up on Oct. 1.

It wasn’t because I missed Facebook. It wasn’t because I felt disconnected from my friends. Yes, there were one or two people I regretted losing touch with, but Facebook didn’t really connect us in any meaningful way, anyway. It just served as a window for us to spy into each other’s lives.

Ultimately, that ability to spy on people is what brought me back.

In other words, I rejoined Facebook because my brother got himself his first girlfriend and didn’t tell me.

I can’t even describe how much it hurts to find out your brother confides in his social media network more than his sister. In fact, when I asked him about it, he said, “How did you find out? You don’t have Facebook.”

Maybe it’s old-fashioned of me, but I think a first girlfriend deserves a text, at least.

I still think Facebook is a sleazy corporation with shortsighted goals and a dangerous amount of power. When I left at the end of December, I downloaded my data, deleted as much as I could, and decisively hit the “delete my account” magic button — once I looked up a tutorial on how to find the damn thing.

“ARE YOU SURE?!” pleaded Facebook. “SARAH WILL MISS YOU!! ALEX WILL MISS YOU!! STEPHANIE WILL MISS YOU!!” It proceeded to show me photos of several of my friends, a cheap shot to the insecure part in all of us that is Afraid of Missing Out. And if I had cared about my connections to any of the people it showed me, it might have been more effective. But I didn’t. I didn’t care about their weddings, their babies, their dogs, their Farmville accomplishments. In fact, I couldn’t wait to stop seeing them.

Yes, I said. I am sure. Delete my account.

I then received an email telling me it would take Facebook two weeks to delete my account. If during this two-week period, I revisited my account for any reason, it would stop the deletion countdown and reactivate my account.

I understand waiting a couple of days. But two weeks to drop some tables from a database is completely ridiculous. Facebook is smart. It knows people stay logged in and check it out of habit. It knows that your resolve to leave it will probably wane over time, and that it will be able to woo you back with, “See, this isn’t bad. Won’t you miss this?”

But the sleaziest part of the whole game came months after Facebook finally deleted my account — and, so they told me, my information.

It turns out that working as a web developer requires said developer to implement Facebook comments on occasion. This is made decidedly more difficult when one does not actually have a Facebook account. (Did you know you have to have a Facebook account to implement Facebook comments on your website? I didn’t.) So I signed up for a false account under a false name. With the same email. I had to give my zip code, too, I think. Upon signing in, I was greeted with a flood of “People You May Know” — including all of my old Fresno State friends, ASU friends, Boy Scout friends…

I had no picture. No hometown. No job description. No profile picture. And a false name. Clearly, Facebook had not deleted the data attached to my email address.

More fun came when I tried to authenticate my developer account. I had to prove I was “a real person” by giving a phone number, to which a confirmation code was texted. Okay, a little weird, but not unheard of.

Apparently they had saved my phone number, too, along with my name, because I got a warning that developers had to use their real names on Facebook. And to prove I was indeed using my real name, I would have to provide them with either a credit card number or a photo of a government-issued ID.

WHAT. So I can put Facebook comments on a WordPress blog?? No. Not happening. Instead, I used the dummy test account someone else had set up just to test Facebook interfaces — complete with phony name and fake info. Not tied to anything anyone had ever used for a real account, this one verified like a charm through my coworker’s Google Voice number.

Facebook spies on you just like you, through Facebook, spy on other people. Disgustingly fitting.

But when your baby brother is 2,000 miles away, you’ll do anything to hold on to whatever connection you can. Facebook wins after all.

Published in Family