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The time has finally come! I’m taking control of the data I put into this world. I can’t stand by and let my data become part of a product sold by a company I don’t believe in.

Facebook has time and again proven itself complacent and even actively shady in recent global events (Brexit/Trump and Cambridge Analytica, Myanmar, Australia… ), and we haven’t even gotten to the personal issues many people experience with Facebook (wasted time, mental health, toxicity and fake news …) FB just has too much power and control over people. Why? Because we let them! We freely give away our data. Even if you aren’t posting anything, you’ve probably liked things, allowed FB at one point or another access to all your contacts, stopped scrolling for an ad, all while actively maintaining a list of people you are connected with. Now, not only is your own data being used to target ads for you, so is everyone of your connections’ data, including those connections on Instagram, WhatsApp… more on this later.

Feel free to skip ahead to the section that most interests you, or read on at your own pace:

So why does this matter?

Let’s focus on ads first: so what if you spend a little more money on things you may not really need, right? The thing is, there’s no reason a company like FB should only be serving you ads for consumer devices/services, if an organization wants to sway a populations ideologies and is willing pay for it, then Facebook gives it the green light. They can sway our thinking on particular topics, and swing our network’s psyche on mass – check out The Social Dilemma (2020) . By using such a dangerous service we are stifling our own self-innovation and personal growth; we are pigeon-holing ourselves. Plus, the only reason we keep using FB is because everyone else is on it! The less people on FB, the less people would feel the need to be on FB.

Hot take: people aren't equally vulnerable to being brainwashed or targeted. Is it then wrong to be on Facebook? Aren't you part of the reason others feel the need to be on it, which puts the more vulnerable at risk?

This idea of your data being used to serve you content is true for pretty much all free and online profit-driven companies. The difference lies in how they use that data. For example, Google serves you ads as well, but at least with Google you are given the ability to disable certain types of data collection, or at least, the illusion that you have some control. Facebook and it’s partner companies really just collect everything about you without much choice on your end, and then bombard you with personalized advertisements on all sorts of stuff.

To be clear, I am not suddenly into digital privacy because I am actively trying to hide something. I am into it because I disagree with giving these big tech companies too much power when they have a track record of abusing it.

Questions I've Gotten:

* Why start now?

I figured the earlier the better. The less data they will have on me, and the less I will feel the “sunk cost” excuse creeping up on me. Plus, I’ve slowly discovered alternatives/workarounds which I will talk about today.

  • Why don’t you just deactivate/not use your account?

And let them keep all my data? Use my account to profile me and all of my friends? Keep growing my profile by keeping Messenger active? No way!

  • What if you want to come back?

Well, I don’t want to come back unless FB changes their practices. If they do suddenly become a “good” company then I will consider creating a new account down the line.

Here is a de-Facebooking guide I followed, and here is another one that someone on Mastodon shared with me.

Timeline Alternatives - RSS Readers

One thing that I found hard to replace was getting the news. For example, I followed Omani/Montreal newspapers' pages on Facebook so I would see whenever a new article was posted and keep up to date. I also followed Vox, and watched a lot of their videos on FB. Reddit just doesn't cut it for my local news.

If this news stuff doesn’t apply to you, then I suggest skipping over to the Social Aspects section.


First, I made a list of the content I actually read/watch on FB and would like to keep up to date with. Then, I looked into where they share this content and, fortunately, most of the content I was afraid of losing have an RSS feed (usually found by adding /rss or /feed to the end of a website’s URL). These RSS feeds are machine-readable code which gets updated when some website makes a new post. For example, you can follow the RSS feed of a YouTube channel, and not have to subscribe to that channel via YouTube at all. We can use these RSS feeds with other platforms known as News Aggregators o create our own custom and flexible timeline. I decided to set up and self-host an RSS News Aggregator for myself, but this is not the easiest way.

I went with News Feeder which is an open-source RSS reader/aggregator that only stores your subscriptions in your cookies on your own machine. This was a bit annoying because now my phone and computer would fall out of sync with each other, but on the flip-side I knew for sure that this stuff wasn’t tracked by some scary company. I took the code and now self-host a modified version of News Feeder on my Raspberry Pi B (1st gen). All the devices on my home WiFi network are now in sync when I go to my personalized local-network website!

The easier way

Self-hosting services is a lot of effort though, and most people in general aren’t as concerned about digital privacy as I am, so instead I would recommend something like Feedly or Feeder for your RSS subscription needs. Alternatively, you just sign up for newsletters via email and set up a filter in your inbox, or even just bookmark each news source/YouTube channel individually on your browser.

You can subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed by clicking the RSS icon at the bottom (or top) of the page, and copying the URL into your chosen RSS aggregator.

Social Aspects


Finding people on Facebook is just so easy – all you have to remember is their name. Most alternatives require you to have their contact info (email, phone numbers, social media handle etc…).

What I did is encourage my active chats to move from Messenger to Signal (or WhatsApp as a last resort). I then posted my last status on FB/Instagram with my contact information and a link to this post. Although, I’m not too worried about people finding me if they wanted to, I have a couple of websites, other social media that I will get into later, and a LinkedIn (I did turn off a lot of permissions on how much data they can pull from me). I’m okay with what people find when they Duck Duck Go(ogle) me. I’m more worried about how I can get in touch with people who are less searchable online, but I assume that as time goes on my lost contacts will be increasingly easy to find on the web.

At a professional development panel I attended recently, one of the speakers told us that if we aren’t okay with what we find when we search for ourselves online, we need to change that! No one else will. I agree with this advice, and if you want some help getting started on this front then please do get in touch with me.


I downloaded all my data from Facebook as HTML, and exported all my photos. All of this was done using Facebook’s own features (found in settings) a few days before account deletion, it took about 12 hours for FB to gather all my data. I was shocked to learn how much other businesses provided to FB about me, and how much FB was tracking my activity across the whole web! Needless to say, I wiped it all before proceeding with account deletion. I did the same with Instagram before requesting to delete my account. There’s a record of everything I’ve ever done on FB and on sites where I’ve used FB to sign in. I encourage you to request to download your FB data even if you aren’t going to delete your account just to see what they have on you.

The biggest nuisance I found was dealing with FB Messenger, whose data came out to about 5 GB on its own. Every message, audio clip, photo, and video I ever sent, or received, including those that were deleted are still hosted on FB’s servers, including conversations with people who’ve deleted their FB accounts in the past. My FB data export, as a user from 2008-2021, came out to about 10 GB in total. I decided to keep this data as a time capsule, and to maybe scrape data off myself in the future.


I needed FB to tell me when people’ birthdays were, there is no way I can remember them all. I exported all my FB friends’ birthdays using the Birthday Calendar Extractor for Facebook Chrome extension (I used it on Brave). After extracting to CSV, I cleaned it up by removing 2/3 of people on there. Then, I made a new calendar (I am using Google Calendar temporarily) and imported the CSV data into it, now everyone of my FB friends has an all-day event on my birthday calendar!

Alternative Social Networks

I really enjoy connecting with people, and consider myself more of an extrovert than not. I wasn't planning on ditching social media altogether, I am just hoping for more control in what data is being collected about my activity and how it is used.

I almost moved to Twitter, but then realized I would just be exchanging one evil for a lesser one, and just giving a new company all the power. So instead, I learned about decentralized social networks and the Fediverse (if you’re still paying attention, I recommend you watch this video now). The Fediverse is a whole web of interconnected social networks. Super cool stuff!

Mastodon and The Fediverse

I decided to go with Mastodon, a Twitter-like social network which is a part of the Fediverse. I chose to have my first account be on the server because their website taught me a lot about online privacy and data protection - a must read for anyone concerned about their online presence. Even though my account is on one particular (relatively small) server, I can follow and be followed by anyone on any server (any Mastodon “instance”), and even across social networks. For example, people on Friendica - an FB alternative which is also part of the Fediverse, or Pixelfed - an Instagram alternative, can follow me and be followed back; this is something you cannot do with traditional networks like Twitter, FB, Instagram… To follow someone you need a separate account for each platform, and boy do they try to keep you there once you’re on!

My experience with Mastodon has been great so far. Even with 0 followers, I chose to let my posts be public, and managed to receive lots of help and engage in interesting discussions with strangers on the privacytools server. Overall, Mastodon has a relatively small user base of ~4 million people right now. There are no ads, nor is there a monetization scheme right now (maybe a downside). Each instance (server) has its own set of rules about content and moderation. You can connect with and post to only your friends, your followers, or surround yourself with people obsessed with something like science, music, a particular region, post publicly, or mix and match. It is extremely flexible. Don’t like your current server? That’s okay, just pack up and migrate! You can take all your posts with you and you aren’t locked-in at any point.

The Mastodon code is open-source, so anyone can start hosting their own server if they want to.

Message me for an invite link to the privacy tools Mastodon instance (I can’t leave a permanent link here). The privacytools instance is great if you want to join a smaller community that is privacy-aware, but still have the ability to connect with the whole Fediverse. Although, my social account is now on the fosstodon instance which, in my opinion, is a bit more active and diverse in the topics people talk about, while still having a common interest in Free and Open Source Software.

You can find a list of all public Mastodon instances here, so go find yourself an instance that best suits your interests! By the way, I use (and love) the Tusky app for my phone :)

Next Steps

WhatsApp, Instagram, …

My next goal is to get off all Facebook products including WhatsApp. WhatsApp (WA) is the hardest to shake since so many people use it and refuse to switch to alternatives. At least with WA you know the content of your messages are unreadable to outsiders due to their default end-to-end encryption, until FB changes their mind or lies about their product. Personally, I prefer Signal where I can react to messages, and I have more trust in the non-profit Signal Foundation to not steal and abuse my data without consent.

In 2021 WhatsApp will start collecting much more data on its users including when/how you use the app, who you are are talking to, when you talk to specific people, and access to all your contacts and network. Notice that even now if you don’t have a Facebook profile, FB can build a shadow profile on you and serve you content across the web based on who you talk to on WhatsApp and their interests. Nuts.

Dealing with Google and Other Big Tech companies

Of course, the discussion doesn’t end here. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple are all tracking our web activity. Although right now, I think they are less-evil than FB since you can at least partially control the information you are giving them if you put in the effort.

I’ll write followup pieces on my experience with de-Googling, self-hosting, decentralization on the internet, and the IndieWeb. There are some really cool ideas out there that people are pushing for, and we could be looking at the next-generation of the internet being born. For now though, I think this post is long enough. Until next time!

You can follow me on Mastodon by clicking on the elephant logo below ;)

In other news, one of my favourite musical acts of all time disbanded last month. Here is a song from their Alive 2007 tour with quite a fitting title for this post. We’ll miss you, Daft Punk.