Deleting your Facebook account isn’t as easy as it should be, so pay attention. And be sure of what you’re doing before you start.

In a world where our lives often revolve around social media, deleting Facebook is a huge step, and with the below method, there’s no coming back.

With that in mind, here’s a step by step guide about how to delete Facebook that will remove all traces of your existence on the world’s biggest social network.

Deleting Facebook ain’t that simple

Before we get started, it’s important to note that Facebook puts obstacles in the way of people who want to leave. In itself, that would be a reason good enough to erase your account already. Who wants to be associated with an organization which makes it hard to find the exit?

Firstly, the company has deliberately entangled itself with third-party apps and websites, making erasing your account a much more complex undertaking.

More insidiously still, Facebook has created a system where users can “deactivate” their accounts. Users might think that this removes their data from public view, but it does no such thing. Deactivated users are still present in feeds and can be tagged into photos. They just won’t know about it.

Still, if you want a halfway option between full deletion and just logging out, deactivation is worth trying. Here’s how to do it.

How to deactivate your Facebook account

Remember, deactivation is not deletion. We’re just offering it as one option. Think of it as a trial run to see if you can live without Facebook.

  1. Load up your Facebook app as normal.
  2. Head to the Account menu in the top right-hand screen.
  3. Choose the Settings option from this menu.
  4. Pick the General option at the next menu.
  5. Choose Manage Your Account. (there are lots of steps to go through)
  6. Choose the option to Deactivate Your Account. You’ll be asked to reconsider, and then to finalize your decision.

From a deletion perspective, this does very little. In fact, all you need to do is enter your old login details to the Facebook front page, and you’ll recover your account in its entirety.

There’s not much difference between deactivation and logging out. So if you want to go further, you need to think about the deletion.

How to delete Facebook completely

In this case, things are a little more difficult, but shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

Before you go any further, remember that deletion is permanent.

There’s no going back with this method – which is what you want, right? If not, stick to deactivation until you’re ready to proceed.

If you’re still keen to continue, here’s how to do so. Firstly, it makes sense to backup your conversations and photos:

  1. Go to the Facebook Settings menu in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Choose the Facebook Information option.
  3. Click on Download Your Information.
  4. Choose the dates you want, pick all types of data and choose High for media quality.
  5. If you’re migrating to another social media network, pick the JSON format. If you just want to browse your Facebook history at leisure, choose HTML. Finally, choose the Create File option and your history will be downloaded.

Now, you can move onto deleting your account and data. Let’s start with the data. This has a few stages.

  1. Remove app associations between Facebook and third-party apps. To do this, head to the Settings menu and choose Apps and Websites. Then flag all of the apps you use and click on Remove.
  2. Turn off the Facebook app. Head to Apps, Websites and Games on the Settings menu. Click on Edit and then Turn Off.
  3. Flush your Facebook history. To do so, head to the down arrow icon in the top right corner and press on the Activity link. Now, delete everything in your history.

Now, for the final step: deletion.

You can still go back at this point, so if you’ve reconsidered and don’t want to delete Facebook, now is the time to bail out. But if you’re brave enough to continue, deletion is pretty simple:

  1. Go to the Settings menu in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Choose the General option.
  3. Now choose Delete My Account and Information.
  4. Finally, press the blue Delete Account button and you’re all done.

Well, actually not quite. Facebook has a final surprise in store. Apparently, it takes three months (or 90 days) to completely remove yourself from the network, so there’s a chance your avatar will be hanging around for a while yet.

What’s next after deleting Facebook?

1. Delete your Instagram account

When people delete Facebook, they often forget about Instagram. Many people run dual accounts on Facebook’s sister platform, and unless you delete both, your data will continue to be held by Facebook. So if you’re serious about deletion, you’ll want to erase Instagram as well.

2. Let others know you deleted your Facebook account

Don’t forget to tell contacts about what you’re doing. Even though we’ve discussed a few downsides of Facebook, it’s still a place to follow friends and colleagues and stay in touch. If you rush the deletion process, you could easily sever fragile connections with people you value.

3. Reclaim your privacy by encrypting your online traffic

After you delete one of the biggest spyware apps on the planet from your life, take your online security and privacy to the next level.

There are plenty of pitfalls along the way which enable Facebook to retain bits of data. Inserting cookies into your browser to monitor your online behavior is but one method Facebook uses to keep its hooks in your life.

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Why delete Facebook, at all?

Not long ago, people would have been surprised when you asked them how to delete Facebook. Now, millions of users in Europe have left. But why are they doing so?

  1. Facebook is unhealthy – as internet pioneer Jaron Lanier argues, the way Facebook was designed makes it inherently bad for you. The system of “likes” and the way news feeds are constructed is all intended to turn users into addicts who can’t turn away from their feed. And when they’re addicted, they become easy targets for social engineering projects.
  2. Facebook is socially dangerous – Facebook isn’t just a danger to the individual. As the Cambridge Analytica scandal and allegations about Russian “fake news” have shown, it can be gamed to influence democracy in dangerous ways.
  3. Facebook has a bad history of spying on its users – when people sign up for social media, they don’t sign up to become targets for one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance systems. But that’s exactly what Facebook is. Everything you do and say on Facebook is monitored, logged, and sold to advertisers (as well as, possibly, governments). Are you comfortable with giving away so much personal information?

Those reasons alone make a strong case for removing Facebook from your life. And we could add more. Is it really a truly rewarding way to live, always comparing your life to others’ in such detail? Do you really need the temptation of checking up on exes, or being examined by potential employers?

So it’s easy to see why there is a growing movement to delete Facebook. People are waking up to the significant downsides attached to social media. But as we’ve seen above, actually extricating yourself from sites like Facebook is harder than you think.