Did the great Facebook outage of 2021 give you a taste of the social-media free life you’ve always dreamed of living? You’re not alone. Per Google Trends data, searches for “how to delete Facebook” over the past week peaked at 6 p.m. ET on Oct. 4 — right around the same time that Facebook-owned apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger came back online.
The outage also came smack in the middle of Congressional hearings where an ex-employee testified that social media giant’s products “harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy," CNN reported. The whistleblower claimed to Congress and in an explosive Wall Street Journal investigation that Facebook executives knew about the issues posed by its apps, but didn’t act appropriately to fix them. (Late on Oct. 5, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a statement to his personal account denying the whistleblower’s characterization of the company and calling for updated internet regulations.)
Recent events aside, if you were looking for reasons to delete your Facebook account, you don’t have to search all that hard. But if you've ever considered deleting your Facebook profile, you probably found yourself wondering what happens to your Facebook account information when you say goodbye. Here’s everything you need to know about deleting Facebook, from the difference between deleting and deactivation, to what happens after you delete Facebook.
What Happens When You Delete Facebook
Many people avoid deleting Facebook, even if they’re troubled by the platform’s impact on their personal well being or society, just because it’s such a big part of everyday life. “My life has gotten 10% harder since I deleted Facebook because so many apps require Facebook logins, especially dating apps,” Martina, who deleted her account right after the 2016 election, previously told Bustle. She added that missing Facebook event invites has thrown a wrench into her social calendar, too. “People have to actively seek me out to invite me to a party and a lot of people just don’t want to do that.”
Haley, who goes through periods of deactivating and reactivating Facebook, deleted the app off her phone for self-care reasons. “I have more control over how I spend my time — particularly at night,” she previously told Bustle. “I much less often spend the last hour or so of my day scrolling through social media before I get tired and fall asleep — my nighttime routine feels much more deliberate now.”
Once you delete Facebook, you can kiss the constant notifications — both good and bad — goodbye. But what happens to your data? Facebook Help Center says that "copies of some material (example: log records) may remain in our database but are disassociated from personal identifiers." If that sounds good to you, you might want to know how long it takes to delete Facebook. The deletion process itself can be a matter of minutes, but according to the Facebook Help Center, it can take as long as 90 days for the site to totally wipe data of yours that's been stored in their backup systems.
How To Deactivate Your Facebook Account
As you can probably guess, deactivating is a less permanent measure that leaves the door ever so slightly open should you ever decide that you miss the ole FB. According to Facebook’s Help Center, "You can deactivate your account temporarily and choose to come back whenever you want." Facebook hides your profile, but all of your information remains on their servers in the event you want to reactivate your profile.
So, what happens when you deactivate your Facebook account? Per the Help Center, your profile won’t be visible, but your friends might still see your name pop up when they scan through their mutuals. If you run a Page, the page will be deactivated too, but your posts and comments in Groups may still be visible to admins. Messages you’ve sent to friends may still be accessible, and you’ll be able to use Messenger to chat with friends. (You have to deactivate or delete Messenger separately.) All you have to do to reactivate your account is log back in to Facebook, or use your credentials to login to an app that uses Facebook (like a dating app).
To deactivate your Facebook account, go to Settings & Privacy, then into Settings. Tap “Your Facebook Information” on the left side. From there, you’ll click Deactivation and Deletion, Deactivation, and continue through the prompts.
How To Delete Your Facebook Account
Because deactivating your Facebook still technically leaves the account open for business, it's not a great solution if you want to stop using the platform because of data and privacy concerns. As long as you maintain a Facebook account, the tech giant owns information about you, including basic account details, details about and photos of you shared by other users, networks and connections, payment information, device information, and info from third-party partners and advertisers, according to Facebook’s data policy.
Deleting your Facebook profile is simple. Take the same steps as you would to deactivate your account, but hit “Delete” instead of “Deactivate.” The page will prompt you to download your information, which you might want to do if you’d like to have a record of all the stuff — like photos — you’ve uploaded to Facebook. Getting those files together can take a few days, per Facebook’s Help Center. You’ll get a notification when the file is ready for download, so you’ll have to postpone your account deletion until that’s all set.
Whether you wait to download your account info or not, once you hit “Delete Account,” you’ll have 30 days to change your mind. During that month, it’ll be as if your account is deactivated, not deleted. In order to cancel your account deletion, you just have to log back in to Facebook, the same way you would reactivate your account. Once 30 days have passed, however, your account will be inaccessible, though Facebook’s Help Center notes that it may take up to 90 days to fully delete your account.
Even once your account is deleted, traces of your former Facebook life will still live on, thanks to your interactions with other Facebook members. Per the Help Center, certain types of user information — such as your Messenger records — aren't actually tied to your account, and friends that you swapped messages with previously might still be able to reference old conversations that you had, despite the fact that you don't actually exist within the Facebook universe anymore.
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