How to safely delete Facebook from your life

When Mark Zuckerberg sided with Trump over Twitter on the topic of fact-checking, I realized I can’t morally continue to promote and contribute to the use of Facebook. But disengaging is not a simple task. Even beyond the people I use Facebook to communicate with every day, I have to worry about business pages I manage, and group events I help coordinate. How can I safely disengage from Facebook, without causing problems not only for brands and businesses I work with, but also for people I care about?

I’m going to walk through what I did, and what I recommend for others. The goals I’m trying to achieve are:

  1. Remove any need for me to log in to Facebook or use it in any way
  2. Make sure I’m not incentivizing others to use Facebook
  3. Make my data less easily accessible

Concern over my personal data is the lowest priority, and you’ll notice I didn’t even put “remove all of my personal data from Facebook” on the wish list. To be quite blunt, even if you delete your Facebook profile today, every tiny morsel of information about you has already been eaten, chewed, digested, and incorporated into the summary statistics about a million cross-tabulated micro-segments that will never be deleted. That damage is done. So although removing personal information from Facebook isn’t a terrible idea… it’s not my focus here.

What makes Facebook thrive, what gives it value to its investors, is usage. Usage is more important than the number of accounts: if every human on the planet had a Facebook account, but nobody ever used Facebook, the value of Facebook would be zero. That is why my focus is on the first two goals: set things up so I do not contribute even a second of “user time” to Facebook, and so that I’m not giving other people an incentive to do it either.

There are two ways to accomplish these goals.

  • Delete your Facebook account completely.

–OR–

  • Configure your Facebook account so it is safe to let it lie dormant

Regardless of which path you choose, your last step will be to delete all the apps (Facebook, Messenger, etc) from your phone, log out on all browsers, and never return. At that point, you will have “deleted” Facebook from your life.

Is the first or second option best for you? That depends on a lot of things. I’m going to recommend that if you primarily use Facebook as a consumer then you should delete your account, whereas if you primarily use Facebook as a promoter or organizer then you should go dormant. But you need to think about what’s best for you given the specifics of your situation. There are plenty of individuals who may decide it’s best to leave their accounts dormant, and plenty of brand promoters or group organizers who may decide to delete their accounts.

The rest of this article falls into two sections. First, I’ll talk about the scenario where you plan to delete your account, and will suggest a series of steps to take beforehand so that deleting your account doesn’t leave “gaps” in your life. Second, I’ll talk about the scenario where you will “lock down” your account to go dormant. In this section I will walk through steps you can take to make sure the groups or brands you manage won’t be harmed if you abandon Facebook and never come back.

What To Do Before You Delete Your Account

If you mainly use Facebook for group interaction–a way to share voyeuristic and exhibitionistic moments with your 5000 closest friends–then may already be on other platforms that serve a similar purpose. Although they are all different in their strengths and weaknesses, you can get that “group sharing” feeling from Twitter, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Instagram, DeviantArt, TikTok, SnapChat, Reddit, and many more. If you truly only use Facebook, I can almost guarantee you that you have friends that are on other platforms: ask them where they “hang out”, and then join them there.

If you use Facebook to get updates and promotions from artists, musicians, or local businesses, then reach out to them. Ask them how you can hear about their events, sales and announcements if you are not on Facebook. I am 100% confident they will have a mailing list or website that they will be happy to subscribe you to. But even better: you might also brighten their day. There is a good chance that they have been wrestling with the question of whether to get off Facebook themselves… and getting your request could be exactly the validation they need to take the idea further.

If you are in book clubs, church groups, hentai appreciation clubs, or any other group that relies on Facebook Groups for discussions and event planning, open up a discussion with them about how you can participate if you decide to be off Facebook. Many groups have started using Zoom for video meetings during the pandemic, so this may be the perfect time to suggest exploring other new platforms as well. Check out options like Slack and Discord, which allow groups to create their own spaces for discussions, media sharing, and announcements.

If you have friends who rely on Facebook Events to plan their shindigs and hootenannies, group platforms like Slack and Discord might be perfect for them as well. You and your friends can start up a Discord Server or Slack Workspace for your Sunday brunches and pool parties (…once those start being a thing again…) just as easily as any book club can.

If you use Facebook to get news about politics or current events, then… well, just don’t. You’re literally part of the problem. Try getting your news articles from actual news sites… and then sharing them with your friends on Slack (or whatever else you and your friends decide on).

If you use Facebook to keep in touch with family, then… just call them. They’re your family, for crying out loud. Seriously. Call your family.

What is left? Once you’ve gone through all of these steps, you probably have very little reason left to stay on Facebook. Follow your friends on Twitter and Snapchat, sign up for your favorite band’s mailing list, created your “Sunday Brunch Crew” Slack workspace, and then… delete your Facebook account!

How To Lock It Down And Leave It

This section is for people who can’t safely delete their account. Maybe you are the owner of a brand or the leader of a group, or maybe you are an artist or musician or online personality. In either case, it would do too much harm for your Facebook account to disappear. So instead, you will configure everything so that you will be able to leave Facebook and never log in again.

What does this end-game look like?

  • Your Facebook Pages will either be managed by someone else, or will be static pages that direct people to your website or some other platform where you want people to engage.
  • Your personal profile will not allow friend requests, will not have public-facing posts, and will have clear messaging on it that says you do not use the profile.
  • Neither your page(s) nor profile will allow people to send messages, or do anything else that would require you to log in to manage.

We will take this step by step. But remember: I’m human. I might leave something out that’s important, so please leave a comment to let me know if I do. I’ll update this post to make sure it’s as complete as possible.

Facebook Page (Sole Manager)

One of my Facebook pages is for my “public persona” identity, rather than a business. I’m the sole manager of the page, and there is no reason for me to get other people involved in managing it. This kind of scenario is applicable for artists, musicians, public figures, “influencers”, and other similar single-person projects.

GOAL STATE. I won’t delete the page, because I do want people who search Facebook for the name to find it. However, when they go to the Facebook page, the only purpose it will serve will be to send them off of Facebook: my blog and my Twitter. Apart from those links, the only thing they will see will be a notification telling them that the Facebook page is no longer in use.

SETTINGS

  • General – Visitor Posts: Disable posts by other people on the Page
  • General – Post and Story Sharing: Disable Sharing to Stories
  • General – Messages: People cannot contact my page privately
  • General – Tagging Ability: Only people who help manage my Page can tag photos posted on it.
  • General – Others Tagging this Page: People and other Pages cannot tag my Page.
  • General – Similar Page Suggestions: Uncheck this option
  • Page Info – Description: I added the text “This page is not in use, please contact me through my website or follow me on Twitter.”
  • Page Info : I Removed all other information other than the website and Twitter profile.
  • Templates and Tabs : Use “Standard Template” and remove all tabs that can be removed (this will leave: About, Posts, Photos, Videos, Community)
  • Notifications : turn everything off
  • Page Roles : make sure you are the only person with any access
  • Instagram : disconnect any account
  • WhatsApp : disconnect any account

MORE -> PUBLISHING TOOLS

This area has a left-side menu, and you will most likely only need to focus on “Video Library” and “Published Posts”. In each section, it will display a list of items and you can use the checkboxes to delete several items at a time. This process will be slow and tedious, because Facebook has no motivation to make this easy for you.

Why do you want to delete these? There is no bulk way (that I know of) to prevent people from commenting on posts on your page. Once you have left Facebook, people could potentially leave spammy, annoying, or even abusive comments. This will look bad, and if you find out that it has happened you may feel compelled to log into Facebook to remove them. We don’t want anything to make you feel like you need to log in. So, the best course of action is to simply remove all of your posts.

Be patient, and resign yourself to the fact that you may need to accomplish this over a span of a few days. Pour a cup of tea, and just delete for an hour a day. You’ll be done eventually.

PAGE

Navigate to the Page, and using the left side menu review the “About” section to make sure it only has your website and social profile and states clearly in the description that you no longer use the page. Then go through each content section (Posts, Photos, Videos) to make sure there is nothing there.

Finally, you may want to add a banner image as a nice, big display of the fact that you don’t use the page. For example, I created this as a banner image for my Facebook page:

Sample Facebook Page Banner

There is one risk with this! By adding this image, people will be able to leave a comment on the image. Facebook does not provide any way for you to prevent people from commenting on an image. Because you will be leaving Facebook forever, having that image there runs the risk of malicious people leaving spam comments or harassing comments that will sit there and never be removed. If you think that is something that is likely to happen, your safest option is to simply have no images on the page at all.

You are now done configuring your Sole Manager Facebook Page.

Facebook Page (Business/Team)

One of my Facebook Pages is for a project that I run with other people, and I am not able to make a unilateral decision for the business to take its presence off of Facebook entirely. This kind of scenario is applicable for small businesses, bands, collaborative media projects, entertainment troupes, and similar group endeavors.

GOAL STATE. Make sure other people have enough control over the page to keep things running smoothly. In many ways this is simpler than the previous example, because the assumption is that–at least for the moment–there has been a group decision that the organization as a whole wants to continue actively using the Facebook Page. All you need to do in this case is make sure things will function properly if you log out and never log back in again.

FACEBOOK BUSINESS MANAGER

Your business page should be “claimed” by a business account on business.facebook.com: that is the best way to make sure that control over the page remains safe and secure. Business accounts are free, so you and anyone else in your group can create one.

If there is no particular reason for you to keep control or “ownership” of the page, you may want to work with another member of the group to get them to create a business manager account for themselves and claim ownership of the Facebook page from their account. This will mean that keeping control of the Facebook page is entirely their responsibility, and is no longer your concern.

However, you may want to stop using Facebook but still retain official ownership of the page. For example, if you are a small business owner, then you may be happy to let your employees manage the Facebook page, but you would still want to plan for the possibility that there will be employee turnover. You want to make sure that you can always reclaim control of the page for yourself if needed. In this case, you should create a Facebook business manager account and claim the page yourself. You will be able to assign “manager” roles to other Facebook accounts so that they can take care of everything for you; however, you will then forever be the “owner” and will be able to take back control of the page in an emergency any time you want.

If you already have a Facebook Business Manager account and are the official business owner of the page, then the only remaining step is for you to use the controls in the business manager to assign administrative access to the other Facebook accounts that you would like to take care of the business page for you.

Personal Profile

Once you have taken care of your pages, and migrated any other social activities onto other platforms, the last step is to lock down your personal profile.

Settings – Security And Login

  • Turn on 2-Factor Authentication: This is absolutely critical. If you plan on deleting your Facebook apps and never logging in, then you would have no way of being notified if someone broke into your account. Therefore you want to make sure that you receive a text message any time someone tries to log in to your account.
  • Change Password: Since you will be logging out and logging back in again, change your password to make sure it’s different from any of your other passwords. It should be completely unique.
  • Remove all authorized logins
  • Remove all connected apps

Settings – Privacy

  • Who can see future posts? Only me
  • Who can send you friend requests? No one.
  • Who can see your friends list? Only me
  • Who can look you up using email? Only me
  • Who can look you up using phone? Only me
  • Search engines? No
  • Limit the audience of posts : use this feature to convert all of your public posts to “friends only” at once
  • Review All Your Posts: use the “Use Activity Log” link to go through all of your posts individually. You can use this to delete things, hide things from your timeline, or change them to private. It will probably be too cumbersome to try to remove everything, though…. that is why it is probably easiest to simply use the previous feature to limit all of your posts to “friends only”, and then simply make sure you limit your friends list down to people you trust.

Settings – Timeline and Tagging

  • Who can post on your timeline? – Only me
  • Who can see what others post on your timeline? – Only me
  • Allow others to share your posts to their stories? – On
  • Who can see posts you’re tagged in on your timeline? – Only me
  • When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add – Only me

Settings – Face Recognition

  • Face Recognition – no

Settings – Notifications

  • Turn them all off

Settings – Public Posts

  • Who can follow me? Friends
  • Who can comment? Friends
  • Post Notifications – from nobody
  • Comment on profile info – Friends

Edit Profile

  • Update your bio / “about you” section to include some variation of: “I no longer use this service. Please connect with me through my website or Twitter.”
  • Remove as much personal information as possible, including quotes, relationships, religious and political preferences, places lived, and so on.
  • Hide information about yourself as much as possible, including your birthday, schools, and other info
  • You may want to update your profile picture to something that indicates that you are no longer actively using your profile.

Final Steps

  • Go through your “Friends” list and remove anybody whom you don’t completely trust. Remember: After you are gone, people on your friends list will still be able to comment on your friends-only posts and photos… so if there is anyone who might be a mischief-maker and leave comments you don’t want lingering, remove them from your friends list.
  • Make one final post, telling all of your friends that you will no longer be using Facebook, and letting them know what they should do if they want to stay connected with you or send you a message

That’s it. You’re ready: Delete all of the Facebook Apps from your phone (Facebook, Messenger, and Facebook Apps), log out on all browsers and remove the bookmarks.

Congratulations….. you are free.



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