We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.
– Iris Murdoch
For the past 10 years, the words “illusion” and “illusionists” have been constantly on my mind; I must have uttered them at least half a dozen times a day, if not more. After all, I spent 8 years making a documentary with that title – The Illusionists – on the dark side of advertising. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of pulling back the curtain to reveal what is behind a scene of make believe, just like Toto does in one of the most iconic scenes of The Wizard of Oz.
Mark Zuckerberg – similarly to the Great and Powerful Oz – has created a formidable illusion, casting a spell on billions of people around the world. Zuckerberg’s genius is to make people believe that to have a thriving social life, to be liked, to be successful, you need to use Facebook Inc’s products: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp. Without them, you’d be lost, cut off from social circles, job opportunities and everyday communications with friends and loved ones. A castaway. A loser. And who wants to be that?
Two weeks ago I wrote about my desire to quit for good all Facebook-owned properties: after Facebook itself, Messenger and Instagram, I set my sights on the messaging app Whatsapp, where I had – as of recently – 417 conversations.
Extricating myself from Facebook’s web felt like an almost unattainable goal, as I wrote earlier this month. Most of my friends and family members use it daily, and I thought it was cumbersome to ask them to install one more app – Signal – in order to keep in touch with me. I was also afraid to appear too difficult and high maintenance by making that request. And so I waited and waited to broach the subject with my loved ones.
Two days ago, I finally started messaging my extended family members and closest friends about my resolve to delete my Whatsapp account. I was not expecting to receive the reactions I got. Within minutes, family members and friends had replied positively, saying the move to Signal sounded good to them. Many immediately installed the app and messaged me there. I was blown away by how easy and positive the experience had been. All my fears and concerns were pretty much unfounded and exaggerated.
Two days in, I have re-built in Signal all the messaging groups I use most frequently. The transition has been seamless.
I’m feeling like Toto. The experience has been so easy, and positive, that I’d thought I’d write about this, in case you too are tempted to quit Whatsapp or any other app owned by Facebook.
To some family members, I wrote a long message that included the link to my blog post from 2 weeks ago, listing all my motivations for quitting Whatsapp. They replied that they understood my points and were happy to install Signal. For other friends, I didn’t feel like writing a novel, so I shared a shorter message:
Just a quick heads-up to let you know that I’m planning to delete my Whatsapp account in 2 weeks. I wrote about my long list of motivations here: https://www.therealists.org/2020/01/my-attempts-to-escape-facebook-inc-s-data-mining-leaving-facebook-instagram-and-whatsapp/
I’ve always wanted to quit all Facebook-owned apps and now that I’m making a documentary on surveillance capitalism, with Facebook as one of my targets, it makes me feel SUPER uncomfortable to keep using Whatsapp.
I’m migrating all my communications to Signal, which has the exact same functionalities as Whatsapp, minus the data mining. All this to say, going forward you can find me on Signal, Apple’s iMessage, SMS or email 🙂
And just to clarify, I hold no judgement towards people who actively use Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp. I understand these apps are essential for millions of people’s communications and for their jobs. For some friends who asked about it, I thought it was important to clarify I wasn’t asking them to delete Whatsapp or any Facebook apps. I simply wanted to find an alternate way to communicate with them, after deleting my account. And this approach worked really well. At least for me.
I’m really excited at the idea of finally deleting Whatsapp a few days from now. And not just deleting the app from my phone but actually making a request to delete my account data. Everything. No way back. I already anticipate that I’ll feel lighter. I’m just one person out of 2 billion active users. But I’m taking immense pleasure in grabbing back a bit of control regarding my data… and resisting Zuckerberg and Facebook Inc. It can be done.
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