For many of us, Facebook has been a part of our journey of growing up in the age of the internet. It was one of the first social media platforms that saw mass adoption and has managed to stick around even as the ‘MySpace’s, ‘Hi5’s and ‘Orkut’s of the internet bit the dust. But as even newer platforms and networks emerge, your main Facebook account may be getting used a lot less.
You may still have a lot of use for Facebook’s other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, but the Facebook platform itself is not as exciting to the younger lot.
There are several other reasons to deactivate or delete your Facebook account, including concerns about privacy and a desire to wean oneself from leaving footprints on the internet. If you are deliberating deactivating or deleting your Facebook account, the following is a short primer on how to do that.
Deleting vs Deactivating Your Facebook Account
If you are weighing the options between deleting your Facebook account and deactivating your Facebook account, you should know that the two are very different. Deleting your Facebook account would mean letting it go for good, a decision you cannot reverse.
But if you are looking for a temporary break from your account while still maintaining some of the Facebook applications, such as Messenger, you should go with the deactivate option.
This option requires less of a commitment and you will not be making a lifelong decision. Several people also use Facebook to find old friends or to keep in touch with distant relatives. If you delete your Facebook account, this will no longer be possible.
In deactivating your account, however, you will not lose your timeline, pictures and other information you store in your Facebook profile. It will be temporarily unavailable for friends to search for, but the data will be saved in Facebook’s archive until you return.
While your account is deactivated, you will not appear in people’s searches, though some things, such as private messages and things you may have posted on people’s wall may still appear. However, you can still use the Facebook Messenger application on your phone to chat with friends and stay connected. The app will work like any other instant messaging service.
When you want to return to your account or reactivate it, you only need to log in with your username and password again, and your account will be just how you left it.
Deactivating Your Facebook Account
If deactivating your Facebook account seems like the option with lesser commitment, the following are the steps you will need to follow:
- Look for an upside-down triangle button on the top right of any Facebook landing page (make sure you have logged in already).
- When the dropdown menu appears, select “Settings”.
- Once you are in the Settings landing page, select “General”.
- After this, select “Manage Account”.
- Under the “Manage Account” menu you will see a lot of different options. Keep scrolling down to the bottom of the page until you see the “Deactivate your account” option.
Once you have clicked on that option, Facebook will ask you for your password again. Once you have entered your password, you will be asked to provide a reason for your departure. There is a list of reasons that you can choose from or you can provide a different reason in the box below. With these 5-6 simple steps, you can deactivate your Facebook account.
Deleting Your Facebook Account
Deleting your Facebook account is a more permanent step and you cannot reverse it once the buffer period after you have deleted your account is over. Once you have permanently deleted the account, you cannot retrieve it and if you want to go back on the platform, you will need to start with a fresh account.
(Note: Before you begin the process of deleting your account, you will want to backup your data. The following sections will dwell on this more. For now, read the steps for deleting your Facebook account with the assumption that you have already taken care of your data backup.)
If you are firm on the resolve to delete your Facebook account, the following are the steps you need to take:
- Go to ‘Settings’ in the same way that has been explained in the previous section on ‘Deactivation’.
- Click on the ‘Your Facebook Information’ link on the left bar of this landing page.
- Select the ‘Delete Your Account and Information’ link at the bottom of this page.
Once you have clicked on this button, a dialogue box will appear that warns you about the consequences of deleting your Facebook account. Click the ‘Delete My Account’ button if you still want to continue with this process.
Facebook will throw up another dialogue box that will ask you to confirm your decision. This is where the platform will ask you for your password and will make you take a Captcha test. Since you are not a robot, you are likely to clear this step easily. Facebook will then tell you about the two-week buffer period during which if you log back into your account, it will be restored.
Delete Linked Apps
As mentioned above, before you begin the steps to permanently delete your Facebook accounts, there are a few things you need to take care of. We will get to your data back up, but another important step is to delete all the linked apps to Facebook.
These include all the apps you have permitted to access your Facebook account or the apps that you have logged into using your Facebook account. These apps store your personal data so you need to clear their archive of your data before you divorce from Facebook.
To delete these apps, take the following steps:
- Go to ‘Settings’ then click on the icon that says ‘Account’. You will find this in the top right corner of the Facebook menu.
- Once you reach the next landing page, go to ‘Apps and Websites’.
- Once you are on the ‘Apps and Websites’ page, you will be able to see all the apps that have access to your personal information through Facebook.
- Under the apps listed, you will find an ‘Apps, Websites and Games’ section. Click the ‘Edit’ button here, and then click the ‘Turn Off’ icon when the dialogue box appears. This disables the feature to log in to apps, websites and games using your Facebook profile.
- Look for the ‘Data Access: Alive’ label at the top of the ‘Apps and Websites’ section. Uncheck all the apps you see on this list to change their active status.
- Once you have clicked on all the apps, go ahead and click the ‘Remove’ button.
- Finally, a dialogue box will appear asking you to confirm your decision. In this box, be sure to check the icon that says ‘Also delete all posts, photos, and videos on Facebook that these apps and websites may have published on your behalf’.
- Once that is done, click on the ‘Remove’ button again.
At the end of this process, you will get a confirmation that all these apps have been removed from your Facebook account. It may take some time for this to happen depending on how many apps you had given access to.
Saving Your Data
The next step before you can finally delete your Facebook account permanently is making a backup of all your data. If you have spent a few years on the social media platform, you are likely to have created a fair few memories. These could be pictures from graduation or that trip you took with your friends in Grade 8.
All these pictures and memories will be lost when you delete your Facebook account. If you do not already have a backup of this (chances are, there will be gaps in the backup even if you do have it), you will want to save all of this data before deleting the account. To save your personal data and pictures on Facebook, take the following steps:
- Go to your ‘Settings and Account’ icon from the dropdown on the top right of your Facebook page.
- Once you are on the Settings page, in the bar on the left side, find ‘Your Facebook Information’. Once the information page loads, look for the ‘Download Your Information’ icon and click on it.
- When the next page appears, you will be given the option of the types of data you want to download. You can also download everything (which is the default option).
- You can also set the date range in which you want to download the data or you can download everything from the beginning to the end.
- Of the formatting options, there are two: HTML (allowing it to view it on your preferred browser) and JSON (allowing you to import it to a different online service).
- After selecting the format, select the media quality.
- After you have selected all the files you want to download, click on the ‘Create File’ button.
The most important thing is to have enough room in your drive to download years worth of data. The data will automatically download in a zip file, but you need space to unzip the file as well.
The server will take some time to prepare your files for download. Since this is likely a large file, it might take upwards of an hour. You may want to get other chores done during this—perhaps, finally, do that 9-step Korean skincare routine? Once the file is ready for download, a link will be sent to your inbox. Click the link in your email to get started.
Alternatively, you can return to the ‘Download Your Information’ page, check the link that says ‘Available Files’ and then click on the ‘Download’ button.
Once the download process has been completed, unzip the ZIP file. Once the file has been unzipped, you will find a folder that has the same name as your ZIP file (facebook-”username”.zip).
In the folder, there will be a file titled ‘index.html’ (or JSON if that is the format you chose). This file will contain all your Facebook data over the years in the recognizable format of the Facebook interface.
Things to Know While Deleting Your Account
As has been cursorily mentioned above, the account deletion process is not immediate. Once you have confirmed that you want to go ahead and delete your Facebook account, the platform will notify you that the account will be around for 14 days should you change your mind. This is a grace period that allows you to reverse your decision if you think this is too permanent a step.
This means that your account will be restored not only if you log into your Facebook again, but also if you log into any of the apps that use your Facebook log in for access. It is also important to know that once you have crossed that 14-day grace period, it can take the social media giant up to 90 days or more to remove all of your information from their backup system.
This means that during this period, your public information will still be accessible on your account. Your friends will likely still be able to see messages you sent to them from your account.
Even after this process, the platform will let you know that some data, like log records, will continue to be in the database. But any information that the platform retains will not include your personal identification or identifiers.
Deleting your Facebook account is quite a big decision to make though it sounds frivolous and not a decision that requires much thought. But it will be a decision that will change some of your daily patterns and may even alter the way that you keep in touch with friends and distant family.
If, however, that is a decision you are adamant about making by all means you should go ahead and make your digital footprint a touch less. If you are getting cold feet about wiping that footprint, you can always resort to deactivating your account first and see how you feel.
Lorenzo has been using the internet for as long as he can remember. He was there for the early days of message boards, he watched social media take over, and he’s excited to see what comes next.