4 Things You Need To Know Before Deleting Your Facebook Account

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
If you've been following any of the reporting on the Facebook data drama in the past 48 hours, you might be feeling a little uneasy about your account's security. The misuse of Facebook user data by voter profiling company Cambridge Analytica has raised red flags about Facebook's failure to apprehend the parties at fault sooner. The company is facing hard questions about what its responsibilities are to its users.
As a first step towards taking control of your security, check what permissions you've given third-party apps on Facebook. Then, give your privacy settings a refresh.
However, if these steps aren't going to cut it and you're ready to sever ties with the platform completely, there are a few things to keep in mind. Ahead, a primer on everything to know before and after bidding farewell to Facebook for good.
Deactivating your account is not the same as deleting it.
If you've ever seen a friend post about taking a break from Facebook to focus on other things, that person has probably chosen to deactivate their account. This is the best option for anyone who thinks they may want to log in at a later point and still have their profile intact. When you deactivate your account, it essentially becomes invisible: Friends can't search for you or look at your timeline. However, your name might still be visible on a friend's contact list or in shared messages. Whenever you decide to login and reactivate your account, your profile will appear again with all your data still there.
To deactivate your account, tap the menu icon in the bottom righthand corner. Then select Settings > Account settings > General > Manage account > Deactivate your account.
You can — and should — save all your data before deleting your account.
If you do decide to take the plunge and delete your entire account there's no going back. Regardless of when you first got a Facebook account, you probably have a lot of photos, friends, and posts you'd like to keep for memory's sake. Fortunately, it's easy to download all of that, as well as a list of your "pokes" (you know, the middle school equivalent of IRL flirting), your work history, and a log of all the events you ever RSVP'd to and attended.
To download everything you've shared on Facebook, tap the menu icon and select Settings > General > Download a copy of your Facebook data > Start my archive.
Just know that there's no way to pick and choose which parts of your data you download, even if you just want your photos. When you choose a copy, you're opting in to have all of it.
Tapping "delete" does not automatically remove all your information from Facebook.
When you've downloaded your data and are ready to bid farewell to the land of "likes", submit a deletion request. Even though friends will no longer be able to see your profile, all of your data does not immediately disappear. According to Facebook: "It may take up to 90 days from the beginning of the deletion process to delete all of the things you've posted, like your photos, status updates or other data stored in backup systems."
Plus, even after those 90 days have passed, friends may still see messages you've shared, similar to what they can still see when you deactivate your account.
There's also a bit of a grace period, just in case a few hours pass and you begin feeling deleter's remorse. Facebook says that it "delay[s] deletion a few days after it's requested." Logging back in to your account cancels the deletion request.
Yes, you can still use Messenger.
Messenger is its own standalone app. As of 2015, you don't need a Facebook account to use it. If you delete your account, simply open Messenger and choose the "not on Facebook" option from the login screen. Enter your phone number and you'll be able to send messages, make calls, and proceed with life as normal — Facebook or no Facebook.
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