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Deleting Facebook is easier said than done

Nicole Lee

Over the past few days, Facebook has come under intense scrutiny due to its previous relationship with Cambridge Analytica, a data science company that secretly culled information from 50 million Facebook users. This has raised questions not only about the social network's role in the data harvest, but also over Facebook's entire business practice of collecting data from its users.

Some are so fed up with Facebook that they've called for a mass exodus, kickstarting the #deletefacebook movement -- including Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp (which Facebook bought in 2014 for $22 billion). But while that reaction is understandable, for many, that just isn't an option.

The fact is, with over 2 billion users, Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. Many people, including myself, use it to keep in touch with family and friends from around the globe. It doesn't matter if my mother lives in Malaysia or if I have friends who live in Japan and Australia; I can keep in touch with all of them in just one place. Facebook's also where I learn about their birthdays, their marriage proposals, their babies and their problems. It's how I know if a friend is in from out of town, if my cousin got a new job, or just if someone is in trouble and needs help. I know that without Facebook, I would feel more disconnected and more isolated from the people I know.

But it goes beyond just keeping in touch with loved ones. Many people rely on Facebook for employment as well as community support. I'm a member of a couple of Facebook groups where comedians and improv troupes regularly find gigs or advertise their shows. I'm also in another group where Bay Area female entrepreneurs find solace with each other and help each other find work.

Safiya Noble, an assistant professor of information studies at the University of Southern California, wrote in her book, the Algorithms of Oppression: "For many people, Facebook is an important gateway to the internet. In fact, it is the only version of the internet that some know, and it plays a central role in communicating, creating community and participating in society online."

Jillian C. York, a writer and activist in Berlin, pointed out on Twitter that deleting Facebook is a privilege that many people just don't have. She notes that those with disabilities or illnesses, people with families across borders, young queer and trans folks and many others will lose their support network if Facebook were to go away.