How to permanently delete your Facebook account — my ongoing process.
Checklist for deleting Facebook.
⬜ Decide that you actually want to leave.
⬜ Find out what sites you are using Facebook for authentication by looking at Settings -> Apps and Websites. For sites where you need to keep access, see on each site how to transfer to non-Facebook auth. Often it’s as simple as using password reset.
⬜ Request a Data Download. It should take a few hours and may be a couple gigabytes
⬜ If you would like to keep using Facebook Messenger, create a new Facebook account. Do not accept any friend requests on it ever (otherwise you’ll have recreated Facebook). You can still message people you aren’t friends with, provided they accept your message requests.
⬜ Using your data download, figure out who you message the most. Sorting messages by size is a decent way of figuring this out. Notify these people of your preferred messaging strategy now, including the messenger account you may have created.
⬜ Make a farewell post detailing the best ways to contact you. Leave it up for at least a few days.
⬜ Settle any scores you may have from troll comments.
⬜ Delete Facebook
⬜ Stay off for 30 days.
I joined Facebook in 2004, back when it was called TheFacebook. I think my alma mater, Penn, was the 7th or so school that the site allowed members from. In November 2016, I started to consider leaving and deactivated my account for about a month. For the next few years, I would go a month or so at a time with an inactive account but felt unhappy with the user experience (and paradoxically, how much time I spent on it.) In the fall of 2020, I took inventory of what I enjoyed about the site, and whether it was worth permanently leaving. My observations were:
- The quality of posts on my feed seemed low. There were far more ads, and I didn’t understand why some of my friends (who I don’t interact with) showed up so much more than others. I don’t know when the “Show posts in new order” button went away, but I missed it.
- Messenger was the primary was I communicated with 20–30 people, and a good way to communicate with businesses. I wanted to keep my relationships with those people.
- I enjoyed writing posts and seeing the comments of friends and strangers, but engagement with my posts had declined. While I could blame algorithms, it’s more likely that I was less inspired to write and people were less inspired to comment. I also found I got more satisfaction engaging with people one on one, rather than with my social network en-masse.
- Instagram was perfectly fine for sharing pictures of my cats and trips, and I didn’t find myself spending an unhealthy amount of time on it. I also had a SmugMug account for storing pictures that people may want higher resolution versions of.
- I really didn’t want to lose all the old conversations and posts I made for sentimental reasons.
So I decided to permanently delete my account. Below is an ongoing timeline of those steps. At the top of this article, I have a checklist of things that I did in case you want to do the same.
I should also add that this isn’t hard to do because of any engineering decisions Facebook has made, or any nefarious user retention strategies. It’s more that I didn’t have a good plan to do it, and Facebook was very integrated with my life.
November 5th, 2020: I made the decision to permanently delete my account. I wrote a post with my observations on the election and that I will be leaving the site permanently. This gave me an opportunity to build a list of who I need to keep in touch with through other means.
December 15th, 2020: I realized that my AirBNB account was linked to my Facebook account. I did a password reset in AirBNB, and disconnected AirBNB from Facebook.
December 27th, 2020: I requested a full data download from Facebook of all my data. I was saddened to see that while all my posts were included, other users comments were not. I experimented with trying to build a scraper that would expand my entire post history and all comments, but decided it wasn’t worth it. It took about an hour for the download to be ready, I downloaded it and uploaded a copy to my cloud drive. The file was a few gigs.
December 29th: 2020: I attempt to create a second Facebook account solely for the purpose of using Facebook Messenger. This proved annoying because Facebook will not allow you to reuse an email address, and the plus sign trick doesn’t work. I still wanted to receive important emails from Facebook for my account, so I created a new gmail account and enabled forwarding to my primary account.
December 30th 2020: I make a final post where I link the new messenger-only account and ask people to message it. I add the messenger-only account to any group chat I’m on.
December 31st 2020: I delete the account. The 30 day deletion period is now started. If I avoid logging in for 30 days, my account will be permanently deleted.
January 6th 2020: I look through the data download and see who I messaged the most. I send them emails with my preferred ways of messaging, including the secondary messenger account. In retrospect, I should have done this before deactivation.
January 7th 2020: The day after the presidential election was called, I decided to bet $100 on Joe Biden to win the election on PredictIt — something made possible by delusional Trump supporters. I try to log into PredictIt but can’t because I used Facebook as the login authenticator. I ponder whether the pain of reactivating Facebook is worth $110 (my total winnings), decide that it was. I activate and claim my winnings. I message a couple people about my new account that I forgot to message on January 6th. I deactivate again.
January 10 2020: I figured I should see if there are any other important apps where I use Facebook Login. I reactivated my account again. Then, under Settings & Privacy -> Apps and Websites, I looked through the list. Nothing there seemed critical, so I re-deleted my account again. I should have done this before deactivation.
Currently, I’m in the 30 day deactivation period. Lets see if I stick with it.
February 15 2020: I’ve forgotten mostly about Facebook, and realized that I no longer have an account. The deletion is complete.