Sure, Facebook was a lot of fun at first. You got to catch up with friends you hadn’t seen since high school, you found out what your ex was up to, and you stayed in touch with family members you hadn’t seen since Aunt Lilly passed away in ’92.
But now, those old friends from high school are sending you links to get-rich-quick schemes, your ex is pushing you to meet them for a drink (was their hair that gray when you dated them?), and your family members are planning a big family reunion – at your house.
You might be able to put up with all of the above, but there’s still that little thing about how big a threat to your privacy Facebook can be.
Facebook sells your activity, likes and dislikes, information about the links you click and more to advertisers so they can target you with ads. That’s how Facebook makes money. The social network collected $27.64 billion from advertisers in 2016.
Plus, it’s not just your activity on Facebook that’s being tracked. They also track your travels around the web thanks to their Facebook Ads network.
Then there was that whole Cambridge Analytica mess during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Yeah, it’s time to delete your Facebook account.
It only takes 3 steps to delete your Facebook account, but you’ll have to make some rather tough decisions along the way. But be strong and pay attention to the pitfalls Facebook places in your way.
Soon, you’ll be living free of the clutches of the “Big F.” (I’m referring to Facebook, not Fuddruckers, which is an excellent place to get a hamburger.)
The 3 Steps to Facebook Freedom
This is it – this is where I set you free from the clutches of Facebook forever!
Or at least until your parents complain about you no longer being on Facebook.
In this section, I’ll walk you step-by-step through deleting your Facebook account. Pay close attention and make sure not to miss a step – otherwise, you’ll still be connected to the social network and may never break away.
Back Up Your Data
When I was researching for this article, I noticed many websites placed the “back up your data” step until further down in the list. I disagree with that approach.
I don’t know about you, but any time I’m making big changes to anything, I make a backup first. This isn’t any different. Always make a backup first. Here’s how.
Make sure you’re logged into Facebook. (DUH!) Click on the Settings and Account icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Facebook web page. (It looks like a gear or a downward arrow, depending on who knows what.)
On the Settings page, look in the left panel and find the “Your Facebook Information” menu item. Click on it. The “Your Facebook Information” menu will load. Look in the right-hand panel for the “Download Your Information” menu option. Click on that.
Once the next screen loads, you’ll see that you have the option to select which data you want to download.
By default, you’ll be downloading everything. I would advise that you do download everything, but you can select or deselect what you want to download. It’s entirely up to you.
You’ll also be offered the option of downloading data from a specified date range, or you can download it from the beginning to the end.
You also have two options for the formatting of the information:
- HTML format, which makes it easy to view everything in your favorite browser
- JSON format, which will make it easier to import the information to another online service
I would suggest HTML. If you select JSON, you might actually import it into another social network, which will get its claws into you, and we’re back where we started.
Last but certainly not least, you can also set the level of the media quality (photos, videos and such) that you’ll be downloading. I selected “high” media quality so that everything would be of the best available quality, but it’s up to you.
If you do download all of it, make sure you have enough hard drive space to save it all.
I’ve been on Facebook for over a decade, and my download file was close to 500MB. Everything is downloaded in a compressed ZIP file, so you’ll need room for the downloaded file, as well as room to unzip the file.
Once you’ve selected everything you want to download, click the “Create File” button to begin the process.
It takes Facebook a while to get your file ready for downloading, so go do something else for an hour or two. I hear “Jessica Jones” on Netflix is a must-see.
Keep an eye on your inbox, as the social service will send an email to you when the download is ready. Mine took a little over an hour to get ready. Your mileage may vary.
Once your file is ready for download, well…download it. To do so, you can either
- Click the link in the email
- Just go back to the “Download Your Information” page to retrieve your file. Click the “Available Files” link and click the “Download” button to save the file to your hard drive. The downloading time will depend on the size of the file and the speed of your internet connection.
Once the download has completed, go to the directory where you downloaded the file and double-click the ZIP file you’ll see there. The name of the file will be “facebook-[USERNAME].zip” where [USERNAME] is your Facebook login.
The ZIP file will expand to your hard drive, inside the same directory where the ZIP file is. Once the expansion process is complete, look for a folder with the same name as the ZIP file. Double-click the folder to open it, then look for a file named “index.html.”
Double-click the “index.html” file, and your saved information will be viewable in your default browser.
It will be in the recognizable Facebook format and will include all of your posts, including photos, videos, comments you’ve made on posts, likes and reactions, a list of your friends, messages you’ve sent and received, and so much more.
There’s a lot to look at here, but don’t fall down the rabbit hole – there is still plenty to do, so let’s move on.
Delete All of Your Linked Apps
Now it’s time to remove all of the apps that you’ve allowed to access your Facebook account, or apps that you’ve logged into using your Facebook account.
In both cases, these apps have access to your personal information. So, out they go!
I assume you’re still logged into Facebook, so click on the Settings and Account icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Facebook menu. On the next screen, look for the “Apps and Websites” menu option in the left panel. Click that.
In the right-hand panel, you’ll see all of the apps that have access to your Facebook information. You’ll also see an “Apps, Websites and Games” section under the apps listing.
Click the “Edit” button. In the Window that pops up, click “Turn Off.” This turns off the ability to log into apps and websites, as well as games and such on Facebook.
But, who cares? You’re deleting your Facebook account!
Now that we’ve disabled this feature, we can delete the apps that have access to your account. If you’ve logged into a large number of apps with your Facebook account, expect to do a lot of clicking, as there isn’t a “select all” option.
At the top of the “Apps and Websites” section you’re in, you’ll see the “Data Access: Active” section. Click all of the apps you see in that section, then click the “Remove” button.
You’ll see a pop-up asking if you’re sure. In this dialog, be sure to click the box that says “Also delete all posts, photos and videos on Facebook that these apps and websites may have published on your behalf.” Then click the “Remove” button.
You’ll then see a confirmation that the apps and websites have been removed from your account. The time it takes to completely remove the apps depends on how many apps and websites had access to your account.
Deactivate or Delete Your Account
Now comes the moment you’ve been waiting for: it’s time to delete your Facebook account. Or you can just deactivate it – it’s totally your call.
Deactivating vs. Deleting Your Facebook Account
If you have doubts that you’ll be able to stay away from Facebook, you can simply deactivate your account. While this disables your login, all of your information remains on Facebook.
This means all of your posts, photos, videos, likes and other Facebook activity are still in place. However, people can’t see your timeline or search for you. Some information may remain visible to others, like messages you have sent them and your name in their friends list.
You can reactivate your account any time you’d like by simply logging back in. You’d be able to pick up your Facebook activity right where you left off. Minus all of those sweet memes that folks posted while you were gone, of course!
Deleting your Facebook account is more final. Of course, Facebook, out of the goodness of its corporate greed heart, waits 14 days before actually deleting the account.
This means that, if you log back into Facebook or use an app that connects to your Facebook account during those 14 days, you’re back where you started: firmly in the clutches of the Facebook machine.
It takes up to 90 days for all of your Facebook info to be removed from backup systems. Your information remains accessible on Facebook for that period of time. Messaging history isn’t stored in your account, so friends will still have access to messages you’ve sent.
The social network says that some materials, such as log records, will remain in their database, but that none of your saved info includes any personal identifiers.
So, it’s up to you, but if you’re serious about getting your privacy back, deletion is the only way to go. Cold turkey, baby!
How Do I Deactivate My Facebook Account?
If you opt to deactivate your Facebook account, do the following.
In the Settings menu, click the “General” menu item in the left-hand panel. In the right-hand panel, look for the “Manage Account” menu item. Click it.
The Manage Account section will expand. At the bottom of the area, you’ll see the “Deactivate Your Account” section. Click the “Deactivate Your Account” link.
You may be required to enter your Facebook password to continue. Enter it if requested.
On the next page, Facebook makes a last-gasp attempt to keep you from deactivating your account. They’ll show you photos of your friends and say that they’ll miss you. Heartbreaking.
You’ll also need to tell Facebook why you want to deactivate your account. And you’ll see pages you might be an admin for that might not be published if you deactivate.
You can also opt out from Facebook emails. If you don’t select this, you might still receive emails informing you of event invites, when you’re tagged in photos, or when you’re asked to join groups. (Yes, all of this can still occur while your account is deactivated.)
To complete the deactivation process, click the “Deactivate” button at the bottom of the screen.
You’ll be asked one more time if you’re sure you want to deactivate your account. Click “Deactivate Now” to make it so.
You’ll see a notice that your account has been deactivated…with a login prompt directly below it, just in case you’re already freaking out.
How Do I Delete My Facebook Account?
Here’s what you came to the show for, kiddies! It’s time to delete your Facebook and get out of its clutches forever!
In the Settings menu, click the “Your Facebook Information” menu item in the left-hand panel. In the right-hand panel, look for the “Delete Your Account and Information” menu item. Click it.
You’ll see a warning that, while Facebook can delete your account for you, you won’t be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you’ve added to your account. (This is why we performed a backup in step 1, so don’t freak out – that’s exactly what they want you to do.)
If you’re still sure you want to delete your account, click the “Delete My Account” button. (Seems logical, right?)
You’ll be asked to confirm your decision once more, and you’ll be required to enter your Facebook password. Click an “I’m not a robot” box and then click “OK.”
You’ll see the notice below, reminding you that your account won’t actually be deleted for 14 days. If you come back and log in before the 14 days are up, your account will be restored, and you’re back in their clutches.
Is it possible to get a restraining order against a social network?
Keep in mind that if you log back into Facebook in the next 14 days, you are right back where you started from.
Facebook will also cancel your deletion request if you log into any app or website that had been connected to Facebook. Delete those apps and the links to those websites. Stay strong, my friend.
That wasn’t too tough, was it? In just 3 short steps, we were able to break free from the clutches of the Facebook trap. You’ve taken one more step towards getting your online privacy back.
Share this article with your friends. Especially your Facebook “friends.” But don’t share it ON Facebook – because, well, you know.