How to break up with Facebook

Why We Wrote This

Facebook can be a good tool for connecting with friends and family. But for some users, that digital connection doesn't outweigh the side effects. Like breaking any habit, cutting back on social media can be a challenge.

Dado Ruvic/Photo illustration/Reuters/File
With more than 2 billion active monthly users, Facebook has secured a firm lock on people's attention. A steady stream of revelations over the past year suggesting that the company has been acting in bad faith has prompted some users to opt out of the social network altogether.

Facebook messages you 20 times a day and seemingly shares every detail of your relationship with its buddies. But it also knows all your friends and you’ve synced your calendars! What’s a user to do? For those of you thinking of taking the plunge, here’s how to break up with Facebook: 

Option 1: Take a break

This method keeps your account active, but forces you to be more mindful about logging in. Suitable for those dealing with mild overuse and not concerned with Facebook mining their data. This option requires the self-control of someone who can open a family-size bag of potato chips and not inhale it in one sitting.

You can alert your friends to your departure or sign out without a word. It’s up to you. To anyone but you, almost nothing will seem amiss. That is, except anyone who grows frustrated by your lack of response to their messages, pokes, or ❤️ reactions to your past posts.

Step 1: Delete the Facebook app from your phone, tablet, and other smart devices.

Step 2: On your computer, log out of Facebook. You will see your profile photo under “recent logins” click the “x” on the photo to remove your account from your browser history. Doing so makes it harder to log back in.

Option 2: No burned bridges

This method hides your profile but does not delete it from Facebook’s servers. It also requires self-control. This can easily devolve into an on-and-off relationship that may prove frustrating. 

Step 1: Deactivate your account by going to the top right of any Facebook page and clicking on the arrow on desktop or the triple-bar “burger” button on mobile > Settings > General > Manage your account > Deactivate your account.  Unlike the first option, your profile becomes invisible to everyone.

Step 2: You do need to deactivate Messenger separately. Open Messenger, tap your profile picture in the top left > Legal & Policies > Deactivate Messenger. If you chose not to deactivate Messenger because you have far-flung friends and family or don’t own a phone, know Facebook will still be advertising to you – that is, collecting data on you and until recently sharing some of your personal messages with companies like Netflix.

Step 3: If you change your mind, log back in to Facebook or log in to any other service you used Facebook to create an account with and you will automatically reactivate your Facebook account.

Option 3: Cold-turkey (after 30 days)

Like any healthy break up, this one takes some work – and the time commitment increases depending on the length of your Facebook relationship and how entangled Facebook is in your other online relationships.

This method requires an iron will. And some trace of you may remain on Facebook – at the very least friends can still see old messages from you stored in their Facebook inboxes.

Step 1: You may want to download all your data from Facebook before deleting your account. It will take several hours if you have hundreds of photos dating back to 2008 – especially if you want to save photos with high resolution. But it’s all here – every like, event invite, and every tag on videos of dancing hot dogs and opera-singing penguins. Facebook will send it to you in a .zip file, which you should download before you delete your account. Enjoy.

Step 2: If you used Facebook to create accounts on everything from Spotify to Airbnb, you will need to relink those accounts to an email. Go to > Settings > Apps and Websites to see what you have linked to Facebook. (Some of my expired previously connected gems I don’t remember ever using include Boggle With Friends, Vigo Video, Mission: Small Business, Kinja, and Who were you in a past life? That last game apparently accessed my friends list, birthday, status updates, events, location, photos, videos, and page likes. But maybe that’s just what it took to tell me I was a rabbit living in Arkansas in a past life.)

Step 3: From the day you press delete, it may take Facebook up to 90 days to permanently delete all your information. (And you can cancel your account deletion within 30 days of pressing delete.) Some information like private messages and posts to groups will remain. You can delete posts to groups before deleting your account by going to Activity Log in the drop-down menu in the top right of any Facebook page.

Step 4: Permanently delete your account by going to the top right of any Facebook page and click on the arrow on desktop or the triple-bar “burger” button on mobile > Settings > Your Facebook Information > Delete Your Account and Information > Delete My Account. Enter your password, click Continue and then click Delete Account.

Step 5: Watch the “Daisy” scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Or watch the entire film if you've never seen it. Hey, you need to find something to fill the time previously spent scrolling.

If you decide to return to Facebook, you start with a blank profile and a bluish outline of a person.

Overall, Facebook apparently makes it the easiest of the Big Five (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft) to unplug from its products – according to a guy who went a month without all of them.  But it’s still kind of a pain.

For a more detailed look at why Facebook is so hard to quit, check out this story from Eoin O'Carroll and Noble Ingram.

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