Deleting your Facebook account? Here’s a few things to check off your list first

Much like a bad relationship, many people are now finding things are turning toxic

A 2019 data breach saw the contact details of more than 500 million of its members scraped and put online, including phone numbers. Up until recently though, that database wasn’t widely available.  Photograph: iStock

A 2019 data breach saw the contact details of more than 500 million of its members scraped and put online, including phone numbers. Up until recently though, that database wasn’t widely available. Photograph: iStock

 

Dear Facebook, we need to talk. Things just aren’t working out anymore. It’s not us, it’s you.

It’s a conversation that many of us may have contemplated having over the years, but ultimately chickened out at the last minute. But perhaps the time is finally here.

In case you missed the news in the past couple weeks, Facebook has been hit with more bad publicity arising from a previous data breach. A 2019 data breach saw the contact details of more than 500 million of its members scraped and put online, including phone numbers. Up until recently though, that database wasn’t widely available.

That changed at the start of the month when it appeared free of charge and accessible to anyone with even rudimentary data skills.

The consequences? At the very least, phone numbers are now in the hands of spammers. At the worst, it could compromise people’s online account security and leave them open to fraud.

Much like a bad relationship, many people are now finding things are turning toxic with Facebook. It talks a lot behind your back. It follows you around, logging your activity and then uses that information for its own gain. Occasionally, it accidentally tells other people things you shared with it in confidence .

Lets face it, if Facebook was an actual friendship, you would have cut ties with it a long time ago. For some reason though, we keep on coming back.

Will Facebook see users leave in their droves? Experience tells us that it is unlikely. Maybe it is complacency, or FOMO. Maybe it’s because we simply have nowhere else to go. But Facebook has weathered the Cambridge Analytica scandal, reports of pyschological experiments on its users, more data breaches and accusations of being a conduit for misinformation on everything from elections and Brexit to Covid-19 and vaccines.

Mark Zuckerberg’s dormroom experiment has lasted a lot longer than many of us thought it would, and has become embedded into people’s lives – especially in the current situation when online accounts are our social lives.

But is it finally time to call it a day? If you’ve decided that your social media profile is less of an asset and more of a drag on your life, there are a few things you should consider before you take that final step.

You may lose access to other accounts

Remember when it seemed like a great idea to sign in with your Facebook account to everything, because it was such as an easy thing to do? That may come back to bite you.

Deleting your account without making prior arrangements for those accounts could leave you locked out of other services.

A trial separation is an option

You can deactivate your account if you want to try out life without the social network, a trial separation of sorts.

Deactivating your account disables your profile, putting it into a state of suspended animation. It removes your name and photos from most things you’ve shared, but all your connections, photos and posts are still there, should you decide to reactivate it. You can also still use Messenger, if you really feel the need to.

However, it’s not the nuclear option. Your name may still appear on friends lists, messages you exchanged with friends may also still be visible. It’s a sort of halfway house that you can always go back on if you feel the need.

To deactivate your account, go to your Facebook Settings and select Security and Login. Under General profile settings, select Manage Account, and scroll to the bottom of the list. Choose Deactivate and follow the steps to confirm.

To reactivate your account, you just log in to Facebook, or use your account to log in somewhere else. So if you deactivate your Facebook account, but your account is linked to Spotify, for example, logging into the music service counts as reactivation.

When it’s gone, it’s gone. Sort of.

The actual process for deleting your Facebook profile is a little more involved than simply pushing a button. It’s not as prominent in the menus, for example; you have to click through a number of options before you hit the point of no return. Even then, it’s not quite the point of no return. You still have 30 days to change your mind before your account is no longer recoverable.

Log in within those 30 days and you can cancel the deletion. But even after the account is gone it can take up to 90 days to remove your data from Facebook’s servers, and there may still be some of that data linked to other Facebook accounts or used by third party services that is still floating around the internet. It’s just no longer specifically linked to you.

It’s not just about Facebook

Facebook owns a few other companies, so if you determined to remove the company from your life, you may need to look at what other apps you are using. WhatsApp and Instagram are also owned by the social media platform, as is virtual reality platform Oculus.

That is just the big names though; Facebook also owns Giphy and Crowdtangle, among others.

If you are sure that you want to delete Facebook, here are a few things to check off your list.

Download a copy of your data

You may want to ditch Facebook, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose everything you’ve ever done on its platform. Photos, posts, events you replied to, messages sent and received through Messenger; they can all be downloaded and taken with you.

To download a a copy of your data, got to Settings and Privacy, then click Settings and go to Privacy. In the left column, click Your Facebook information.Go to Download Profile Information, and click View. You can choose what data you want to access, and more importantly, what you don’t.

Depending on the size of your profile, it can take some time for Facebook to compile the file, so don’t expect it to be available instantly – mine took an hour to arrive. Once the file file is available, you’ll get a notification that it is there and it will appear under the Available Copies tab in that section, and it will remain there for a few days.

You can also use Facebook Information menu to transfer your photos and videos to another service, and to get rid of any other web activity linked to your Facebook account.

Check what is connected

As already mentioned, you may have used Facebook to access other services, and once your account is gone, it may cause issues logging in.

To see what is connected to your Facebook account, got to Settings>Security and Login and then scroll down to Apps and Websites. You can see all the apps and sites that you are currently logged in with using Facebook, so there will be no nasty surprises if you decide to delete your account.

It’s also a handy tool to allow you to revoke access to different websites and apps.

Once you have a list of accounts and services that need to be changed, you’ll need to change the log in for each of the accounts you want to keep. The process and options will differ for each service, but once you have tested the new sign in details are active, you can go back to the Apps and Websites page and remove each of them from your Facebook account, thereby truly breaking the link.

Make sure you have important contact details

Not everyone gives Facebook a mobile number or allows their email address to be publicly accessible, so deleting your Facebook profile may mean you lose the means to contact some of your friends and family.

Although you can continue using Messenger if you deactivate your account, the same ability is not extended to those who choose to delete their accounts completely. If you delete your Facebook account, Messenger will also be deleted, including your messages.

It goes without saying that if you manage any pages on Facebook for local businesses or clubs from your personal account, you should transfer admin rights to another account before deleting it.

Once you have all that sorted, you are ready to delete your Facebook profile. Go to Settings, select Privacy and click on Your Facebook Information. Scroll to the bottom of that list and you’ll see an option to delete your profile information. Select that, and follow the instructions to remove your profile.

And that is that. Walk away, don’t log back in and enjoy your Facebook-free life.