Deleting Social Media – Saying Goodbye to Facebook

saying goodbye to social media - how to delete your history

Deleting social media and your data history – why do it?

More and more people are deleting social media and for good reason. With a total of 1.8 billion active users, Facebook and YouTube are by far the largest social media platforms. Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and LinkedIn – in that order[1] – trail behind them at some distance. As a result, the information you publish on these social media sites may be shared with a very large group of people. It is up to you to defend your privacy by making the right choices. By being selective when accepting a new ‘friend’, by limiting your posts containing personal data to the group of people you know and trust. Nobody pins a note on their front door to inform visitors that they are on holiday. But by posting the photos to your social media feed from your sunny holiday location you send out the same message – and to a much wider audience. Unfortunately, you may not be the one deciding to publish a photo or information about you. Your friends can post images of you and share them with their friends, or even with ‘all’ – which is by now a quarter of the world population.

Even if you trust all of your social media friends completely (can you really?), there are ‘data breaches’ where third parties obtain personal data they should not have access to. In early September 2018, Facebook announced that 50 million accounts had been compromised by attackers who had managed to take over user accounts. On August 31, 2018, Instagram reported that cybercriminals had gained access to hundreds of user accounts. And many people will remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal which hit the news in April 2018, when it transpired that data of 87 million Facebook users was illegally used for political purposes. For this latter data breach, Facebook was fined $645.000 (the maximum at the time) by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. For the September 2018 data breach, Facebook could face the maximum GDPR fine of $1.63 billion.

Deleting social media is hard

The sad truth is that you are not in control of your data when you have an account on social media. This is mainly because the companies behind them are highly dependent on their income from selling personal data for advertising. But social media withdrawal is tough. You might look at more privacy-friendly alternatives, like Vero, Ello, Digg, and Steemit, depending on which features of Facebook you use. Vero offers a free for life subscription for the first million registered users, but a platform which does not rely on selling your data for advertising needs another source of income. So, their subscription will not be free, or at least not for long. Also, these alternatives are much smaller, so your friends will not be on them. Unless you can convince them to move with you to the same alternative platform.

Not sure yet? Try deactivating your account first

How difficult deleting social media, and specifically Facebook, is for you will depend on how addicted you are to the platform. Missing posts of friends who you also meet in person will not hurt that much. But, missing the messages and pictures of acquaintances you never really speak to but do want to lose touch with completely will be tough. So, before you (permanently) delete your account you might start with just (temporarily) deactivating it. When deactivated, your profile and data will be invisible to others until you reactivate your account, but Facebook saves it all in case you want to return. Be sure to remove any linked accounts you may have to other websites or accounts that use Facebook Connect, as any subsequent login to your inactive account will, within seconds, undo your Facebook deactivation.

How to deactivate your account (temporarily):

  1. Click the account menu down arrow at the top right of any Facebook page in your web browser.
  2. Select ‘Settings’.
  3. Choose ‘General’ in the left column.
  4. Click ‘Manage your account’.
  5. Press ‘Deactivate your account’, and then follow the steps to confirm your decision.

During step 5, Facebook will try to persuade you not to deactivate your account and will name friends who will miss you, complete with photos of said friends. Don’t waver, you can always reconsider later.


Deleting social media - Facebook's tactics to dissuade people
Facebook uses your friends to guilt you into staying by saying ‘Are you sure you want to deactivate your account? And then lists the friends who ‘will miss you’.

Before deleting your account, it may be worth downloading your Facebook data. To do this, follow these steps

How to delete your account (permanently):

  1. Click the account menu down arrow at the top right of any Facebook page in your web browser.
  2. Click ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’ at the bottom of your General Account Settings.
  3. Choose ‘Start My Archive’.

This is not an immediate process, it may take an hour or so before your data is ready and arrives in your mailbox. If you have been on Facebook for a long time, the amount of data may surprise you, and strengthen your resolve to opt out.

The actual deletion is simple: go to and follow the steps. Facebook will delay the actual deletion for 30 days, in which period you can still go back on your decision. It can take up to 90 days before all of your data is removed from the servers, but during that time it is no longer accessible.

If you choose to opt for a more privacy-friendly alternative, remember that nothing on the internet is really free. Servers and software are expensive. If you are not paying your share of the costs through a subscription fee, you are not the customer. Instead, you, or more specifically your personal data, are the product.


[1] Source: Social Media Use in 2018.  Pew Research Center. Washington DC, USA


This article has been written by guest author Leo Besemer.