How to delete your Facebook account once and for all

This is the tough love you were looking for.

Sharon Profis Vice President of Content, CNET Studios
As the Vice President of CNET Studios, Sharon leads the video, social, editorial design, and branded content teams. Before this role, Sharon led content development and launched new verticals for CNET, including Wellness, Money, and How To. A tech expert herself, she's reviewed and covered countless products, hosted hundreds of videos, and appeared on shows like Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and the Today Show. An industry expert, Sharon is a recurring Best of Beauty Awards judge for Allure. Sharon is an avid chef and hosts the cooking segment 'Farm to Fork' on PBS nationwide. She's developed and published hundreds of recipes.
  • Webby Award ("How To, Explainer, and DIY Video"); Folio Changemaker Award, 2020
Sharon Profis
4 min read

You have a gambling addiction. A pretty serious one, actually.

You rise each day and take a trip to Mark Zuckerberg's bustling casino. You arrive, hoping you might see familiar faces, but all the other gamblers are people you don't give a crap about. You shrug and head to a slot machine. You crank the lever for the thousandth time, cross your fingers and hope for a win.

Surprise: You're still a loser. But you'll be back in an hour -- maybe your luck will change.

Whether you realized it on your own or watched a TED talk, Facebook could be taking a toll on your mind, career and friendships. Depending on your age, you're likely spending 6-7 hours per week swiping through news (fake and real) and baby photos. And last weekend's news that data analyst firm Cambridge Analytica received misappropriated Facebook data from 50 million profiles might leave you wondering how much you should be sharing.

Here are some other things you could do for an hour per day:

  • Learn a new language
  • Call a few friends or family members
  • Exercise
  • Cook a meal
  • Read a book or the news

If you're thinking, "I want that! Help!" you've come to the right place.

Step 1: Stop over-thinking it

Worried about losing touch with old friends? Don't. If you were actually friends -- not mutual stalkers -- you would be chatting over a cup of coffee right now.

What about networking? I get it, you don't want to talk to someone you met at a work function over the phone. Here are some other modern options for you: texting and email. (Whew, that was a close one.)

And all those groups you're in? Well, there are simply some things you're going to have to give up. Think about the trade-off -- you're getting an hour per day (on average) back. That's 365 hours per year. That's a lot of hours over the course of a lot of years. You're welcome.

But I use messenger! Not sure if you've heard but most people have a phone number that you can send text messages to. There's also WhatsApp. (Also, you can deactivate your account and still use Messenger. More on that later.)

Step 2: Disconnect those apps (like Spotify)

You've probably used Facebook to log into other apps and services dozens of times. And why not? It makes signing up for new things super fast.

Problem is, those logins inadvertently burrowed you deeper into Facebook's grasp. It's reversible, but it'll require some time to undo. Here's how:

  • Make a list of all the apps you log into using Facebook. One way to figure this out is to go to Facebook (desktop) > Settings > Apps. Scroll through this list and make note of the apps and websites you still use.
  • One by one, log into those apps. Visit the Settings page and find the option to disconnect from Facebook. This process varies quite a bit, so you might want to Google "disconnect Facebook from [insert app here]" to speed things up.

It was once nearly impossible to disconnect Facebook from Spotify, but the company recently made it much easier. In Spotify, go to Settings and choose the option to disconnect from Facebook. Now log off. In the login window, hit "Reset Password." Follow the instructions, and you're golden.

Step 3: Download all your memories

You probably want to keep all your photos, posts, friends and all the other data you accumulated on Facebook. Luckily, saving all that data is really easy.

Go to Facebook (desktop) and head to Settings. In that first window, hit "Download a copy of your Facebook data." Follow the instructions and wait while Facebook emails you a downloadable file.

Step 4: Delete, deactivate or detach

This is the part where boys become men. Girls become women. Caterpillars become... you get the idea.

You have three options when it comes to quitting Facebook:

  • Permanently delete your account. This is irreversible -- all your data will be removed, your profile will disappear and you'll need to sign up for Facebook again if you want back in.
  • Deactivate your account. This option is for people who know that, eventually, they'll succumb to their addiction. Deactivating essentially puts your account on hold, so you can restore it to the same state it was in when you left it. This also lets you continue using Facebook Messenger.
  • Detach yourself. I really don't recommend this one. There are very few people in this world who have enough self-control to forgo deleting or deactivating their account in favor of ignoring Facebook. But if your addiction is mild or you were never really into Facebook anyway, this option could work for you.

To permanently delete your account, go to this page. To deactivate your account, go here. Just be warned, Facebook uses a weird combination of psychology and desperation to try and prevent you from quitting.

If you plan to detach yourself and use self-control to "quit" Facebook, here are some tips:

  • Opt out of Facebook's email notifications
  • Minimize your profile by making your Timeline, photos and anything else you can private
  • Delete the app from your phone and remove any bookmarks
  • Use an option like Space (for iPhone) to reverse your addiction

First published Jan. 17, 2017, at 3:20 p.m. PT.
Update March 19, 2018, 11:53 a.m. PT: Adds context from the Cambridge Analytica-related news.