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If you can't delete Facebook yet, start by deleting the app

Until you're ready to kick your Facebook habit completely, deleting the mobile app is a great way to drastically change your scrolling behavior.

Facebook 'lost control of its data'
Getty Images

It's been a miserable year so far for Facebook, and it just keeps getting worse. CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before both houses of Congress this week to address a range of volatile issues, from the 87 million user profiles accessed by data analyst firm Cambridge Analytica to the company's role in spreading fake news in the US, the UK and other countries.

It's all enough to make you delete Facebook completely, which many people are doing (there's even a hashtag for that). But that's a big step, and I understand that even with the social network's snowballing scandals you may not be ready.

delete-facebook-app

Go ahead, click that little "x" and watch the Facebook app disappear. 

Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

Up until last month, I wasn't ready, and I felt that I had a good reason. During the three years that I lived in London, Facebook was a valuable expat tool for staying connected with everyone back home. But since I moved back to California three weeks ago, it no longer fills as sharp of a need. Now my family and longtime friends are just a few minutes, rather than an ocean, away. To catch up on our lives, I can just see them in person.

Severing the link completely remains the ultimate goal, but I'll need just a bit longer for that. So I took a more realistic, but still powerful, step in the meantime: I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

kg-facebook-photos

While living in London, Facebook was my photo album for connecting with friends back home. But that's changed since I've moved back.

Screenshot by Kent German/CNET

I had tried this a couple of years ago while still in London, but drifted back quickly as Facebook's mobile site is an exercise in frustration. Two weeks into my latest experiment, I don't miss the app at all and my Facebook behavior has changed radically. Making the social network more difficult to use has made me use it far less.

Sure, I still check my feed, but only on the desktop site where the experience is tolerable. Limiting that time is another matter, but scanning my feed for a few minutes twice a day (such as once when I start the workday and once before I leave) is a good place to start.

As for my own updates, I've almost stopped posting completely. That part was easier than I thought -- I've largely used Facebook as a travel photo album, anyway -- and it means no more notifications to constantly check.

Facebook critics can point out that the data I've already shared is still the property of Zuckerbug's empire. That's certainly true, but my primary objectives were stopping the obsessive scrolling and focusing my attention elsewhere. So far, I've accomplished those goals just by clicking the tiny "x" on the wiggling app and watching it vanish from my home screen. My thumb is getting a break, as well, and there's one fewer data-hungry app draining my phone's battery

Now I just have to ease up on Twitter. But you'll have to give me much more time for that.

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If you decide to delete your Facebook app, I'd recommend taking a few steps first:

  • Go to the Timeline and Tagging page of the Settings menu. To avoid embarrassing posts showing up on your Timeline without your knowledge (remember, you're not constantly checking your feed), change the setting of "Who can post on your timeline?" at the top of the page to "Only Me." If that option feels too restrictive, you can select "Friends," but then take the next step.
  • Under the Notifications page, you can choose to get email notifications about a huge variety of Facebook events, including when a friend posts on your timeline. Just use this feature carefully or you may wind up with a distracting email overload that you'll start to ignore.
facebook-timeline-and-taggings-menu

You'll find a lot of useful settings on the Timeline and Taggings page.

Screenshot by Kent German/CNET
  • Back on the Timeline and Tagging page, enable the option to "Review posts you're tagged in before the post appears on your timeline?" This way, when a friend tags you in one of their own posts (such as in a photo they've uploaded), you'll get an email asking to approve the tag before it will appear on your own timeline. Just note that if you don't approve the tag, the photo (or whatever) will still be on your friend's timeline without your tag attached.
  • In the same section, enable the setting to "Review tags people add to your posts before the tags appear on Facebook?" This applies to people who aren't your friends. If they try to tag your posts, you'll be able to review the tag before it appears.

If you have other suggestions for managing your Facebook profile after deleting the app, leave them in the Comments section below.