Our relationship with Facebook has reached that uneasy ‘can’t live with it, can’t live without it’ level, with constant in-your-face advertising, sponsored content, viral posts, videos and memes taking precedence over real updates by real friends. Add to that the constant controversies about the social media giant’s devil may care attitude toward data privacy, and a lot of us are very close to pulling the plug on our Facebook identities. The latest PR disaster of the unprecedented data harvesting by Cambridge Analytica rocking Facebook’s boat has come as the final nudge for many users to go through with their decision of a Facebook detox.
For the uninitiated, the controversy erupted with a whistle blower’s startling revelations that Cambrige Anayltica, a firm owned by billionaire Robert Mercer, collected personal information of 50 million users and allegedly used it to create targeted campaigns to influence Donald Trump’s Presidential election. The expose has led to an uproar on the internet, with #deletefacebook trending.
If you too feel driven to hop on the #deletefacebook bandwagon in light of these developments or have your own personal reasons to take that plunge, here is a detailed rundown on how to permanently delete your Facebook account without losing precious data you have stored on the platform over the years:
Deleting and deactivating your Facebook account are two different things
Facebook gives users the option to either deactivate or delete their accounts, and it is important to know that these are two different things. Deactivating your account is a temporary suspension that can be revoked by simply logging in to your account again. During the period that your account is deactivated, your friends or others on Facebook can neither search for your profile or your timeline. But should you decide to reactivate, you’ll find all your account information intact.
Deleting your account, on the other hand, is an irreversible process. It is for this reason that Facebook stalls every deletion request for a period of 14 days, and if you log on to your account during this period, the request is automatically cancelled. But if you go through with deleting your account, you cannot regain access to it or any information stored on it. Deleting your Facebook account is a serious choice, and one that you must make only after you are sure you are ready for that kind of off-social-media commitment.
Back up everything you may need for your post-Facebook existence
The posts, shares, tags and uploads on Facebook translate into a wealth of information amassed over the years. When you choose to delete your account, you also risk losing all these precious memories saved on the platform, except you don’t have to. Facebook has a provision to allow users to save their data, which includes everything from photos, posts, messages, contact information, shared links and more, to be able to access it outside the platform. Here are a few steps you must follow to keep your data intact even after letting go of your Facebook account:
Download data archives
First and foremost is downloading your Facebook data archives. To do this, you need to go to Facebook Setting and navigate to the ‘General Account Settings’ section in the menu. From there, click on ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’ option, followed by the ‘Start my archive’ option. At this stage, you will be prompted to enter your profile password, and asked to click on the archiving option once more. You will receive a download link on your email once the data archive is ready. This may take a several hours, depending on the amount of data you are looking to archive. Once the link arrives in your inbox, you need to open the link and click on the ‘Download archive’ option embedded in it.
The information that you can archive and download is stored in three places. First is Downloaded Info, which contains timeline information such as messages you have posted, posts you have shared, uploaded photos and chat history. Then there is Expanded Archive that contains additional information such as details of logins, cookies, subscribed apps, people unfriended and more. And lastly, you have the Activity Log, which comprises a detailed history of all your Facebook activity since the time of joining the social network. The information available for archiving is extensive, and how much of it you want saved is entirely a personal choice. The downloaded data backup is neatly organised in separate categories and can be accessed without an internet connection, if you store it on your computer. The entire archived data is stored in HTML format and can be search by using the Ctrl+F command on Windows and Cmd+F on Mac.
Remove third-party login links
Facebook has made creating login accounts on third-party apps and websites a lot easier, and it has become a habit for most of us to just ‘Login with Facebook’ instead of filling out an entire sign up form on a new website/app. Before you delete your Facebook, you need to remove all of apps, websites and services from your account. To do so, you need to visit the Settings page and go to the Apps option listed on the menu. The entire list of apps/websites linked to your account will appear in this section. As you move your cursor on these apps, you will get ‘edit’ and ‘remove’ buttons for each app/websites. You’ll have to manually remove each of these apps/websites by clicking on the ‘remove’ button and then clicking on ‘Confirm. If you intend to continue using anyone of these apps or sites after deleting your Facebook account, you’ll have to create an alternate login for access.
Sourcing data from friends’ profiles
In addition to your own profile, a lot of priceless memories may be tucked away in the accounts of your Facebook friends in form of photos, posts, and tags. You can reach out to your friends, let them know about your decision to delete your Facebook account and ask their permission to download any photos of you or photos that are relevant to you before calling it quits. Websites like www.picknzip.com can help making this process a lot less tedious. You can login on this website with your Facebook account details, choose the names of your friends from whose profiles you want to download photos, click on ‘Albums’, select the album or specific photos that you want saved, go to the Download option and choose ‘Download My Selection’.
Going through with deleting your Facebook account
If you complete the entire process of backing up your data with an unflinching resolve to delete your account, you may be ready to go Facebook-free. The only thing left to do now is hit that delete button.
However, finding the option to delete your account will take some effort. The ‘delete’ page isn’t easily accessible as you make like, and it’s only understandable because people leaving does not bode well for Facebook. You can either search for the ‘Delete My Account’ option in the Help section located under the drop down menu on the top right corner of your Facebook timeline page or directly access the delete page via an internet search. Once you are on the page, just click the ‘Delete My Account’ button, fill in the Captcha provided and complete the process by clicking OK. This sets the 14-day period of permanent deletion of your account rolling. It is imperative to not access Facebook through any means, be it mobile devices or third-party apps, because doing so will automatically terminate the deletion request.
This also means you have two weeks to rethink your decision, and if you don’t change your mind by the end of this period, your account will be gone and buried for good. Facebook may, however, take up to 90 days to delete your data from its servers, but it won’t be visible or searchable on the site. Or at least, so it claims.