How to Quit Facebook

Thinking about deleting your account? Here's how to do that, or just temporarily deactivate it.

A finger pressing the Facebook app on a smart phone. Photo: iStock

There are lots of reasons someone might want to delete their Facebook account, from an effort to spend less time on social media to anger over past privacy scandals or the presence of misinformation and hate groups on the platform.

Those problems have been reported for years, but they’ve been getting more attention after recent reports in the Wall Street Journal showing Facebook buried evidence of all kinds of issues, including a system that lets high-profile users break Facebook’s rules about harassment and incitement to violence, a weak response to the ways drug cartels and human traffickers abuse the platform, and internal research demonstrating that Instagram (which Facebook owns) has a negative impact on teenage girls’ mental health.

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Congress launched investigations in the wake of the Wall Street Journal reports, which were based on documents provided by a former Facebook employee. In addition, the whistle-blower, Frances Haugen, filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that Facebook misled investors about its practices. But for anyone who’s fed up after years of bad news about Facebook, there’s no need to wait for legislators or regulatory bodies to take action.

If you want to give the platform one more chance, you could just adjust your Facebook privacy settings, or follow some steps to promote a healthier experience on social media. Otherwise, if you’re ready to say goodbye to Facebook, read the following directions first to avoid some pitfalls.

Deactivate Your Facebook Account

If you just want to take a step back, Facebook gives you the option to deactivate your account temporarily. This allows you to reactivate any time you want, simply by logging in to the site.

While you’re inactive, other users can’t see your timeline, view your photos, or search for you on Facebook. However, friends may still be able to read messages you sent to them and view your name on their list of friends.

To deactivate in a web browser: Click the downward-facing arrow in the top-right of any Facebook page > Settings & Privacy > Settings > Your Facebook Information > Deactivation and Deletion. Choose “Deactivate Account,” then hit “Continue to Account Deactivation.”

To confirm that you’d like to go ahead with the deactivation, you’ll have to enter your password.

Before Deleting, Download Your Data

So you’ve made up your mind to quit Facebook—and you really mean it this time. Beware: Once you cross this line, there’s no going back. Your photos, status updates, and messages will disappear, and your name will vanish from Facebook search. Forever.

Many Facebook users have a trove of data on the site. Before you hit “delete,” you may want to download your personal information. You’ll be able to get posts, photos, and videos you’ve shared with others; messages and chat conversations; and the details provided in the About section of your profile. (Click here for a full list of archive data.)

Facebook will generate a copy of your personal archive and send it to you via an email with a link to a .zip file. Just be sure to save that file before you delete your account.

Create New Logins for Other Services

If you use Facebook Login to access third-party apps and sites, you may also want to create new logins and passwords for those services, so you don’t lose access to the accounts. (Not sure which apps and websites are linked to your Facebook account? Check out the Apps section in Settings for a complete list.)

Going forward, you can keep your login credentials and passwords handy across multiple devices with a password manager. You could also log in with Google or Apple credentials if you don’t anticipate ever leaving those companies behind.

Ready? Okay . . . Click Delete.

Once you’re finally ready to make your grand exit from Facebook, it’s relatively simple: Go to this page and click “Delete my account.”

The decision won’t take effect immediately; Facebook says it won’t actually start the process until 30 days after you click delete, a delay the company says it builds in to give you time to change your mind. If that happens, you can log back in to your account during that stretch and your deletion request will be canceled.

In the meantime, your data will not be accessible to others on Facebook. It may, however, take up to 90 days from the start of the deletion process for all your information to be deleted from Facebook’s backup systems, according to the company.

And there’s no way to be sure you’ve scrubbed yourself completely from every Facebook platform: Messages you’ve sent to friends will still be visible in their inboxes, for example, and any posts you’ve made in groups will remain unless you delete them before opting to end your ties to Facebook.

Remember that Facebook.com isn’t the only social media platform run by the company. Facebook also owns and operates Instagram and WhatsApp, among other services. Those who want to purge themselves from the Facebook family of products entirely may need to delete other accounts as well.

For steps on how to quit Instagram, WhatsApp, and almost two dozen other popular services, check out CR’s guide to deleting online accounts.


Headshot image of Electronics editor Thomas Germain

Thomas Germain

I want to live in a world where consumers take advantage of technology, not the other way around. Access to reliable information is the way to make that happen, and that's why I spend my time chasing it down. When I'm off the clock, you can find me working my way through an ever-growing list of podcasts. Got a tip? Drop me an email ( thomas.germain@consumer.org) or follow me on Twitter ( @ThomasGermain) for my contact info on Signal.