Retracting on Facebook

by jefftkjefftk1 min read24th Apr 20202 comments

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Sometimes I'm in a Facebook discussion and someone says something they wish they hadn't. Maybe it turns out to be wrong, or misleading, or insensitive. One way I've seen this poorly handled is posting a follow-up comment:

The problem is that the top-level post is still there, and Facebook will often choose to show it to people without showing them the reply. Or people will read the big text and skim over the reply.

At the other extreme, full deletion has different downsides:

If you're deleting something with replies, those comments disappear, even ones people may have put a lot of work into. Plus people are even less likely to know you retracted your claim.

For simple retractions, where once people know you don't endorse it anymore it's no longer harmful, an edit can work well:

It's not confusing, and people can still read the comments if the discussion is helpful.

If you really don't want people to gloss over your retraction, you can edit to remove it fully:

If people really want to see the context, they can look at the edit history:

In extreme cases, like if you accidentally outed someone, changing the privacy setting on your post to "only me" lets you keep anyone else from seeing it:

This way if someone has a comment they wrote that they'd like to still have, they can write to you and ask for a copy.

If you have a comment in a nested thread where you need to clear the edit history, delete your comment and post a new one like "I deleted my comment above because...".

If you have a top-level comment you need to delete, there aren't any great options. The best you can do is manually screenshot the thread in case someone asks for their comments, and then delete it.

So, please do retract things when needed! Just be thoughtful about it.

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EtA: Meta: Oops, sorry, I just realized you asked to comment on Facebook. I will x-post. Why do you prefer comments on Facebook?


Strongly agree, with the following additional points.

If I change my mind a very short time after having posted (seconds / minutes), I might delete it and reach out to people that engaged with the post in private. Although still probably just better to change the privacy settings.

If someone tells me my post might be information hazard, I use the "Specific friends" sharing-option, and only share it with them. I then proceed to discuss with them about whether I agree this is information hazard; I might ask a few other people for second opinions if it seems warranted. I then decide whether to make the post visible again.

When I hide a post (which is rare), I will usually use the "Specific friends" sharing-option to keep everyone that already engaged with it.

I will also sometimes (but rarely) change the privacy settings from public to friends-only.


Tangential point

As a Facebook mod/admin, when deleting a pending post, post, comment or reply, I think it's courteous to send the text to the person in private message so that they don't loose that information (at least, when it's not obvious spam / ill-intended).

I just realized you asked to comment on Facebook. I will x-post.

Sorry for the confusing tag! It's an artifact of the automated cross-posting, and is not asking you to go comment somewhere else.