If you're seriously considering deleting your Facebook account, you're not alone.
Start typing in the letters "dele" into Google and you'll see "delete Facebook account" as a top suggestion. Whether it's to alleviate privacy concerns or avoid digital distractions, more people are trying to figure out how to fully disconnect themselves from the social network giant that we live and breathe.
For those ready to call it quits, you're in for a surprise — it's more difficult than you think to erase yourself permanently. With its ever-changing privacy policies, becoming Facebook-free requires more steps than just hitting the delete button and saying goodbye.
Keep in mind deletion is not the same as deactivation. You can deactivate your account at any time, which means your Timeline and information will disappear from Facebook until you reactivate your account. When reactivated, your information is restored.
Deleting your account means you can never, ever access your account again, and you won't be able to retrieve any of your content or information.
Most of your personal data, like your email and mailing address, is removed from Facebook, but some information, such as messages and photos, may remain on its server for "technical reasons." Facebook's Help Center also says the data left behind will no longer be identifiable or searchable as your own, and that it will be inaccessible to other people using Facebook.
If you 100% want out, follow the step-by-step guide below to erase your Facebook footprint and make sure your account is gone for good.
1. Back up your Facebook information
Save photos, contact and birthday information and other data you'll need while your account is still running. Once your account is deleted, this information will be inaccessible.
We recommend downloading a copy of your Facebook data, which comes in the form of a ZIP file consisting of all your posts, including photos and videos. Here's how:
Click on the padlock icon at the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook.
Select "See More Settings."
Click “General,” the first option in the menu.
Click “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
Finish by clicking “Start My Archive.”
Once the ZIP file has downloaded, save it in a safe place on your computer or hard drive.
For more details about where you can find your Facebook data, see the full breakdown here.
To save individual photos, click “Options” at the bottom of the photo and select “Download.”
Under Facebook's Terms of Service, when you delete your photos and videos (also known as IP content) or your account, it is erased in a way similar to emptying the recycle bin on your computer. Removed content may exist in backup copies for a "reasonable period of time," but will not be available to others unless someone who had previous access to the photo or video has a direct link to it. Photos will only live in the content delivery network's cache for a restricted amount of time, according to CNET.
2. Check your linked apps
Facebook has become so ingrained in our web activity that we have used it to sign up and log in to most third-party apps, games or websites.
We log in with our social network accounts to save time and help the app become better personalised for us. But without realising it, we're actually giving third-party developers permission to access, store and update the precious information we share.
What information exactly? Our "basic information," which includes our user ID, any public information and our friend list.
Here's how to check the apps connected to your Facebook account:
Click the downward arrow at the top right-hand corner of Facebook.
Click "Apps" in the left-hand column.
However, some apps such as Tinder will only allow you to use the app with a Facebook account. If this is the case, you'll need to decide if you absolutely can't live without that app and rethink deleting Facebook.
The trick here is to go to these apps and see if you can change your form of login by using your email address or Twitter handle instead. Your goal is to completely cut off any association between the app and your Facebook account.
3. Turn off your apps on Facebook
Once you've changed your form of login in the apps, it's a good idea to remove and disable them in your Facebook settings to be safe:
Click the downward arrow at the top right-hand corner of Facebook.
Select "Apps" in the left-hand column.
Remove each app on the list by clicking the "x" next to it.
A pop-up will ask you to confirm the removal of the app. Check off "Delete all your [app name] activity on Facebook. This may take a few minutes." Now, hit the "Remove" button.
Then, click "Edit" (this is to the right of "Use apps, plugins, games and websites on Facebook and elsewhere?")
Click "Turn Off Platform."
By turning off the platform and removing the apps, information about your apps cannot be recovered, and your user ID will no longer be shared with the applications.
4. See what information remains on your apps
Unfortunately, getting rid of your information doesn't end there.
The apps you've used are maintained by outside businesses and developers who are not a part of Facebook, and may still hold onto the information you've shared in the past.
Just a note: If you have an Instagram account, it may be even tougher to escape Facebook.
In short, Facebook and Instagram can share your information. You can delete Instagram, but it will retain your profile information and user content for a "reasonable time for backup, archival and/or audit purposes."
5. Clear your Facebook history
When you delete your Facebook account in the next step, your check-ins, tags, comments and likes on other people's pages disappear.
You may also be wondering if advertisers will have access to your data after deleting your account. Facebook's Data Use Policy notes that advertisers will not have access to your data, unless you have given them permission too. Facebook's policy also states they may provide advertisers with information after they have removed your name and other personally identification information (like your contact information) from it.
But to be safe, open your "Activity Log" page to wipe out your trail of actions on Facebook. These actions include posts you've liked and comments you've made in the past. Doing this will ensure that little to no information remains after your account is deleted.
Go to your Facebook profile page, and click the "View Activity Log" button on the lower right-hand corner of your cover photo.
Undo all of your actions by clicking on the pencil icon of each action. Select "Delete" or "Unlike."
6. Now, delete your Facebook account.
Finally, it's time to cut ties with Facebook itself.
It's no coincidence that it's a hassle to find the Facebook account deletion page. Click here, and type in your login information if it asks.
Then, click the "Delete My Account" button. After you have confirmed that you want to delete your account, check your email to make sure the deletion process has started. If you don't see it, check your junk folder.
Make sure to avoid logging into your Facebook account for 14 days. If you login during this two week period, your account will be restored.
According to Facebook's Data Use Policy, it takes about one month to delete your account, but some information may remain in backup copies for up to 90 days on Facebook's end.
Mashable is the largest independent news source covering digital culture, social media and technology.
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter