Facebook Will Let You Take Your Data With You. But Where Would You Put It?
Well over a decade’s worth of posts, photos, likes, groups, and comments. That’s my Facebook data, which, as of today, I have even more options for collecting and transferring to other platforms.
I imagine myself downloading it all, piling it onto a rickety wooden cart, hitching it to my trusty donkey IO, and then pulling it across the digital terrain to Google Docs. Once there, I dump it all in, and then, taking one rueful look back at the massive, disorganized pile, I slam the shed doors on it and walk away.
Facebook’s acceleration of data transfer tools and options (which has long offered ways to do so with digital media) is laudable but it all also fails to address a fundamental flaw: There’s no comparable place to put any of it.
Sure, you could put all your downloaded Facebook videos and photos in Google Photos, but that’s a private service that now has relatively strict free data storage limits. Facebook, an ad revenue-funded service, has no such limits.
I guess you could put all your Facebook posts into WordPress, publish a website and then invite people to visit, but who actually would? All your friends and relatives will still be on Facebook, freely sharing pictures of their daughter’s graduation, person’s coming out, and puppy’s first time peeing outside the home. No one is visiting your WordPress social media site.
Facebook has so effectively stamped out competition that, aside from the satisfaction of personally holding your own overwhelming Facebook data pile, there’s little benefit to pulling your data off Facebook.
You could argue that you're getting off the hamster wheel of personal data creation for Facebook consumption and anonymized sale to third-party companies. That’s not nothing. People are legitimately freaked out about how much Facebook and its ad partners appear to know about them (that could change significantly after Apple releases iOS 14.5 and the App Tracking Transparency system).
However, it’s the question of what happens to your data after you remove it from Facebook that’s bothering me.
There are platforms like Twitter, Mastadon, Friendica, Ello, and others. Aside from Twitter, which, honestly, is not comparable to Facebook (public, linear), most people have never heard of them.
Facebook is not populated with early adopters or even people who are particularly tech-savvy. The platform purposely operates like a relatively simple hometown community because that’s what’s most familiar and comfortable for its user base. They are not out there searching for edgy, new platforms.
The reality is that there’s no Friendster (that was a real thing) or Funbook, no place where you can put your Facebook stuff and have a comparable Facebook-like experience. Once you collect it, it will remain in an unmanageable pile, hidden away not only from your friends but from you.
Your Facebook corpus will sit in that data shed, untouched, unliked, and soon, unnoticed. Eventually, you’ll forget about it until someone launches a show called “Digital Storage Wars,” where people crack open the shed and pore over your digital detritus. It’ll probably be a hit.
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