So, you want to free yourself from Facebook.
Let’s be real, we all want to do it. But few of us actually ever do, because whether you like to admit it or not, a lot of your life likely relies on it. Whether it’s keeping up with friends’ birthdays, or keeping in touch with a relative who lives across the country, there are a number of factors that probably keep you using the service. Breaking up with Facebook is a lot harder than you think.
But after news broke this weekend of how a firm called Cambridge Analytica managed to collect data on 50 million Facebook users as part of an effort to influence votes in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, there’s no better time to protect yourself and your information from the tech giant. Even if deleting your Facebook account won’t completely free you from the company’s grip.
Getting off the service is a lot easier said than done. If you’re looking to detach from Facebook but want to keep some of the simple benefits it offers — staying in touch with family, reminiscing over old photos and so on — here are some helpful tips.
Download your data
Before you take the big leap into the nothingness of a non-Facebook world, you’re going to want to keep a carbon copy of all your data. To do this, you can head to the settings tab on desktop, then hit the General option. At the bottom of the General Account Settings menu, you’ll see a hyperlink to download all the data Facebook has on you.
If you’re curious as to what Facebook means by data, you can find out more here. It includes basic stuff like your old statuses and all the photos you’ve uploaded to your account, but it also means things you may not have known Facebook was collecting, like your political affiliations, associated IP addresses and searches. If all of that is alarming to you, then, yeah, it’s probably time to delete your account.
Organize your memories
If you’re a fan of Facebook’s features that remind you of old memories, you can recreate them yourself — even if it’s a slightly tedious process. When you download your data, Facebook will serve it to you in a giant clump organized by photo and video folders.
Taking the time to sort through it now will make it much easier to sift through down the line, especially when you’re trying to find old photos of old events. Store them on your desktop or an external hard drive and sort them by events, dates, and places. That way you’ll be able to create your own version of the “On This Day” feature that you can peruse whenever you feel so inclined.
Check where you use Facebook as a login
Ah yes, you can’t forget all those times you’ve turned to the “Log in with Facebook” option to access an account. Whether it’s for Spotify or Amazon, there are probably a handful of apps or services where you’re using your Facebook as a login.
Luckily there’s a way to check all those places in one spot. Go back to the Settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which services have access to your account. Click “Logged in with Facebook” to find the ones you need. Be sure to set up new logins for each before parting ways with Facebook.
Keep in touch with family and old friends
Let’s be real, we all have those select friends and family who we only communicate with via Facebook. There’s no shame, everyone has them. So before deleting your account, make sure to comb your Friends list to make sure you have the contact information for everyone you want to keep in touch with. Keeping them updated on your life will take a little effort, like, you know, picking up the phone every few days, but the extra effort will let them know you … care.
Be an old and use a physical calendar and journal
Yes, there are plenty of friends whose birthdays I only know because I see the little cupcake notification pop up on my feed every morning. And yes, there are plenty of people whose birthdays I’d be completely unaware of if I didn’t get a push notification. But there is a way to keep track of all that stuff sans Facebook.
Just go to the Birthdays tab under your Events page and jot down every single person’s birthday you care about on a physical calendar. Then go to Past tab under the Events menu and make note of any annual event you went to previously and would love to go to again. Sure, this may feel a bit archaic, but it’ll be better in the long run than being bombarded with notifications for people you haven’t seen since high school.
The same goes for the daily element of sharing. If you’re the kind of person who loved to share updates about your life to your friends every day, just jot all that down in a journal. You’ll still be able to sift through all your old thoughts and opinions, and it won’t be combed by any malicious bots.
Make sure to delete, not deactivate, your account
If you’re really looking to break up with Facebook, you’re going to want to make sure that you delete your account instead of deactivating it. They sound similar, but the two are very different. The former is available in your Settings tab, in the General menu. From there, hit the Edit button next to Manage Account.
This is where things get tricky. Here, you can deactivate your account, but that gives you the opportunity to return at a later date and keeps your profile visible to others. To completely disembark, you need to delete your account, the but link in the menu above will only let you delete your account once you die, which seems a tad bit morbid.
To fully delete your Facebook account, you need to go here:
Here, you can request a complete termination of you account, which means you can’t ever regain access to it, and your data will be deleted by Facebook over the span of up to 90 days. There’s still some material accessible by Facebook after your info is terminated, but it says it’s dissociated from personal identifiers.
If you’re a bit confused about the difference between deactivation and deletion, Facebook has a handy explainer here.