I’m a head of social media by day. So why am I deleting my personal Facebook account? (I’m not deleting the one I use to manage brands’ Facebook pages, as then I’d be out of said job. Pages, unfortunately, remain essential for business today. As long as you have a paid budget, as organic post reach has been progressively whittled down over the years to the current diddly squat).
My personal account had to go — i.e. not just stop using it, as I did four years ago, but literally obliterate it — because, as it has clearly emerged recently, Facebook’s forcing brands to pay to be seen on their platform is just the tip of their evil iceberg:
2016: A Facebook staffer was fired for leaking a pro-free speech internal memo from Mark Zuckerberg. Thereby kicking off Facebook’s two years of hell, as this referential WIRED piece details. Later that year, same Zuck said it was “pretty crazy” to think fake news on Facebook had been instrumental in Trump’s election. Ha! (see below)
2017: Facebook admitted a Russian group paid $100,000 for around 3,000 posts aimed at US voters (foreign investment in US political campaigning is illegal); six Russian propaganda accounts’ posts were shared 340 million times
2018: The Guardian and The New York Times revealed that Cambridge Analytica exploited the Facebook data of 87 million Facebook users to tip the 2016 election in Trump’s favour. Cambridge Analytica’s similar work could also have helped bring about the 2016 Brexit referendum win. And recently, it emerged that Facebook had employed PR firm Definers to dish dirt on opponents like investor and philanthropist George Soros, who in January had called Facebook “a menace to society“. Facebook number two Sheryl Sandberg published a post saying she had no idea Definers had been hired (why not?!), then later admitted she had asked for research on Soros further to his comments. I.e. she lied.
If you’re happy giving away all your personal data to a company with such questionable ethics, be my guest. If however you would like to reclaim your content — remember, all photos and videos posted on Facebook belong to them, not to you — the good news is it’s not as difficult as many reports have suggested. Here, then, is how to leave Facebook, in 5 easy steps!
1. Go to Settings > Your Facebook information & choose “Download your information“. You’ll see something like this (I’ve never been here before, but it looks like this part’s been spruced up a bit recently. Funny, eh?) Request to download your information. I have 800 photos, 1,3k posts and more on there. And I stopped using it 4 years ago. Fortunately, the file includes all the data they use to target ads at you (i.e. everything).
2. Wait for Facebook to prepare a file of all your content. I asked for mine on the afternoon of December 1, 2018. I got it 3 days later. 3GB of “posts, likes, reactions and more.” What it looks like:
It’s essentially two types of things: all your posts, friends, comments events and more, as html files; and all your photos and video files. Of course, you can dive back in for nostalgia purposes. The photos may even make you think your life was far more glamourous back then. Then you snap back out of it: you only ever posted good things on Facebook. Which is why you gave it up in the first place; everyone else only posts their perfect, personal PR side too. I also discovered that, despite my past four years of inactivity on Facebook, Deezer has posted every single tune I’ve ever listened to to my timeline. So even when you don’t use Facebook, it uses your data. One last thing to check before taking the plunge: take note of your BFFs’ birthdays (the only reason I’ve missed Facebook since stopping using it a while ago).
3. Next, it’s back to the settings page, and the Delete Account section, here. A final guilt trip before taking the big plunge? Facebook reminds you deleting your account will remove all your Messenger conversations as well as your Facebook elements. OH RLY? Let’s press the button…
4. Oh no wait I can’t! Yet another “are you sure?” moment is thrown up by the platform. YES I AM! And even though I am, they’re still giving me 30 days to change my mind. How desperate?!
5. That’s it! Of course, we get one last reminder we can still change our minds, right above a new chance to log back in, or even create a new account. They just don’t give up, now do they?
So there you have it. Just five easy steps to removing your digital life from the grasps of Zuckerberg, Sandberg and co. With three “are you sure?” jabs, just for good measure. Don’t you feel better now? 🙂
Top photo © Getty Images