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Audrey Watters

Deleting the Network

3 min read

Bryan Alexander wrote this morning that he was making his “ruthless Facebook purge of spring 2017,” announcing his plans to remove some of his “friends” on Facebook. I don’t have nearly as many connections on Facebook – no doubt because I deleted my account a few years ago and only signed up again for a new one. I’ve been fairly cautious about who I “friend” there, as I am uninterested in having a large Facebook network to manage. I have a Facebook page for Hack Education and a page for myself as a writer. I figure that folks can follow along there if they want updates about what I’m working on.

I do regularly unfollow people on Twitter. A few years ago, I trimmed my follow numbers by about half. I now follow about 800 people, which doesn’t seem like too few or too many. (I also rely on lists of journalists and news organizations rather than following these accounts directly.)

Bryan’s efforts seem to address culling the composition of the network. What I’ve been doing recently – and I’m thinking now about how similar or different this might be from what Bryan is up to – is culling my own history on the network.

I now delete all Facebook and Twitter posts that are older than 90 days*. I also delete all email that’s older than a year. (This past week’s phishing scam using a fake Google Docs app alongside the hacking attack on the Macron campaign demonstrated, I think, how vulnerable all our documents and messages and connections are in email. I mean, I thought we’d have learned it earlier thanks to Wikileaks’ release of the DNC’s emails. But hey.)

I think Bryan is severing ties to certain accounts on Facebook because he wants to see better information and he wants his own posts to be more readily seen. Me, I am deleting information because I am not interested in the retention of data as part of a weaponized information gaze. But by deleting “friends” and by deleting posts, we both are actively and willfully reshaping our social networks. We are making adjustments to the reach and level of activity that will certainly alter our “presence” online – in no small part too because these networks increasingly display us information algorithmically.



* In order to delete my tweets, I used Tweet Deleter, which did require me to sign up for a premium account in order to delete everything. In order to delete my Facebook activity, I used F___book Post Manager, which is a Chrome add-on. Before deleting anything – Facebook, Twitter, Gmail – I made sure to download a copy of my data.