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Deactivating Facebook: How I kicked the habit

Deleting your Facebook account on the Android app
Deleting your Facebook account on the Android app (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

This is the first of several editorials where I shall chronicle the trials and tribulations of my personal journey disconnecting from Facebook.

For the past couple of years, I've been "that guy" at the party who rants about Facebook and tries to rally others around me to ditch Facebook — while still being hopelessly addicted to its services myself. After all that procrastination, 2019 is finally going to be the year where I consciously detangle my life from Facebook's grasp.

We've all been following the endless stream of troubling news associated from Facebook — from secretly conducting psychological tests on its users, the reverberating impacts from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the constant data breaches, and the way Facebook was utilized to promote a campaign of genocide in Myanmar — and yet removing myself from Facebook's clutches was still "too personally inconvenient" to seriously consider, an argument I've heard back from many people I've talked to over the years.

My first steps towards leaving Facebook started with deleting the Facebook app from my phone, a symbolic and important step to take. If I wanted to check in on Facebook, I would now need to log into Facebook through a web browser. Next, I switched to Facebook Messenger Lite to get rid of all the bloated features found in the main app. These two simple moves permanently eliminated the most annoying Facebook notifications from my phone and is something I recommend to everyone.

But the next big step would actually involve shutting down my profile itself — and that's precisely when you start realizing just how thirsty Facebook is for your attention.

The best designed page on Facebook

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The Facebook team has been adding new features over the years, but in my opinion the most carefully designed page on the whole platform is the retention page when you try to deactivate your profile.

I'm going off memory here a bit but one of the first things Facebook shows you when you click through to deactivate your account is a short list of some of your friends and their smiling faces with a message, paraphrasing here, that says "if you leave Facebook you won't be able to connect with all your friends who still use Facebook" — and I'll admit that this dumb ploy worked on me multiple times.

Facebook's retention page is a masterclass into guilting you into staying connected.

How will I keep in touch with some of these people? All these years I've been friending people on Facebook instead of getting their phone numbers or emails. I stalled at this screen many times over the years, but this time I pushed on.

Next, Facebook wants to know why you're leaving — and you're required to give a reason if you want to deactivate your account. Whichever option you pick, a window instantly pops up with more information from Facebook about their features and controls.

To me, this process felt like telling your romantic partner that you want to break up, only for them to respond "But wait, baby, I can change!"

It's all been carefully designed to make you second guess your decision and lure you back into staying on the platform. This time, I decided to go with the option "Other, please explain further" and went off on a little rant that made me feel a bit better even though I'm pretty sure no human eyes will ever read what I wrote there. A cathartic experience nonetheless.

🎶Ooh, ooh baby, I want you back 🎶

I've previously written about the sticky ways Facebook has crept across the tech sector on the premise of convenience for app developers and Facebook users alike. For a time, it was a streamlined process for quickly creating a profile on a new app with one tap rather than entering all your information.

But when you go about deactivating your profile, you quickly realize how much you may have been relying on those Facebook logins. If you've created an account on a different service — say Spotify or another service you use daily, or PUBG Mobile or any mobile game that you might have signed up with or connected to your Facebook account — you may lose access to that count or risk reactivating your Facebook profile by logging into those apps.

Logging into apps and services using your Facebook credentials is a clever way of making Facebook feel "essential".

Instagram is a great example of that. If you signed up with Instagram before it was bought out by Facebook your account is simply linked to your Facebook account and you can log in and unlink your Facebook account without reactivating your profile. If you signed up for Instagram through your Facebook account and now want to disconnect from Facebook, my understanding is you would need to basically create a new account that isn't connected to a Facebook account.

Deactivating your Facebook profile means you get the full-court press from Facebook trying to get you to log back in — pretty much anywhere — so that they can reactivate your profile. I've seen more ads for Facebook and its apps in the past few weeks than I ever saw as a full Facebook user.

It's just another way that Facebook has intentionally and methodically crept its way into making it seem like an essential internet service. Fact check: It is not.

Breaking the habit

I've been a Facebook user for over 10 years, jumping on board back in 2006 when it became available to anyone over 13 years old with a valid email address. One of the strangest things I've realized since deactivating is just how much Facebook had ingrained itself into my daily habits.

Even while writing this article, I still managed to load up the Facebook home page without actually meaning to.

Browsing to Facebook during any lull in my day had become so second nature to me that I still find myself opening a new tab, instinctively typing "face" and then staring at the log-in screen before I even realize what I'm doing. With the way Google auto-fills my login credentials, I know it's only a matter of time until I errantly hit Enter and accidentally reactivate my profile.

Even now, I recognize I've only implemented a half measure — instead of going all-in by deleting my Facebook profile entirely, I've started the process by deactivating my profile which lets me still stay connected with friends using Facebook Messenger without using the main website.

I don't think I'll be fully deleting my Facebook profile until I've both found a suitable replacement for Facebook Messenger and also convinced enough of my friends and family to migrate over to justify fully disconnecting. I'm also still dealing with the fallout of losing touch with all the Facebook groups I was a member of, which was another one of the Facebook features that made the service so great — but not so essential that I'm willing to go back. Not yet.

Facebook's value comes from collecting user data and fostering user engagement across a wide network of apps and services. I, for one, will spend 2019 doing my best effort to stop feeding the beast with what it wants — my attention.

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.

26 Comments
  • Truth be told.. Facebook is actually useful if you stick to using it for its main purpose.. Connecting with friends. Don't input any info like profession,. Location, marital status etc.. Don't upload pics and make no posts. Just use Messenger. I did exactly what you did mid 2018 and have to confess.. In December I opened a new account because truth be told, I gained nothing from deleting it. In my mind I thought I did at the early stages and felt superior to everyone else. I was wrong. Everyone is on it so its actually a goldmine for staying in contact with friends. Use it for that purpose and you won't feel trapped by it. I realise most are weak tho and will begin to share every viral meme and post pics of their lunch and cats. You don't have to be them. Unfollow them but don't unfriend them and you'll be OK. Make facebook work for you.. Don't work for it.
  • I have no axe to grind with the fact that you say it's a useful tool. As a person who quit using Facebook about 5 years ago, I say that it's quite nice. It may be a situation where I didn't know a lot of people who used it so heavily that I am not disconnected with them in a significant way. However, there are issues beyond using as a tool. A lot of the tracking and lack of privacy that Facebook has been known to do is troubling. It may not be enough for some people to drop it, but it certainly is something for me to not want to go back. As for quitting Facebook because if feeling superior? I never really did it for that reason, nor have I touted it. There are things on the internet where having a Facebook account really helps. It's just not enough to bring me back. With annoying posts, that you mentioned I can just ignore, it really put me at a disadvantage of the all-or-nothing deal with a specific person. If their posts are 1/10 stupid things then I'd ignore them for the rest of the 9/10s of the posts. That was a very few amount of people. The rest is stuff that I couldn't care less about. Therefore, I got rid it. Anyway, sorry for the long reply. I respect your choice, and I am glad it's working out for you.
  • The tracking and privacy breaches are troubling, I agree, but If you remove as much personal information as possible and disconnect as many 3rd party apps and actually log out so its not continuing to track all your browsing you can go along way to protect yourself. The big thing is just removing as much personal information as possible. When I did that I put myself in the shoes of a stalker. If someone gained access to view your account what information (school, work, photos of you next to places and with other people) could they use to find you and say... break into your apartment when you're live posting your vacation photos on instagram...
  • I completely agree. I work in Japan and the only reliable way to communicate with friends and professionals around the world is fb messenger. I only have the messenger app and literally all the permissions are disabled. Most people are safe with these companies if they know what information to avoid divulging to (or on) the platform and exercise self control.
  • I agree, people should just use it far as market in an advertisement not just for BSing around!
  • You always work for Facebook. The entire service is designed for you to work for it - and this includes using it and its related services, like Messenger. If you're using it, you're working for it. You've just deluded yourself into thinking using less of it is somehow better, when they probably get the bulk of their data mining from your conversations and sharing in Messenger - not your comments on walls). People should let Facebook die and allow others in the market to learn from its mistake and offer a more consumer-oriented product... Not a business oriented product that masquerades as a consumer service. At the end of the day, facebook is a product for businesses to advertise to consumers. It's one of the biggest misconception, probably aided by the fact that it didn't "start off" with this business model. Most people stayed away form Google+ because they didn't see a point, because it's Google, and they knew what was up. I'm less annoyed by the privacy issues (I've always been fairly careful, and usually read ore than I clicked on that site), but more so with how toxic it has caused people to become. People are now interacting with each other in real life as if it's a social network.
  • That's fine. Thanks. I'm ok with it for my use case so no tinfoil issues over here. For me.. Its nothing more than a way to connect with friends all over the world that I may not have even seen or heard from for like 20 years. It can collect all the data it wants.. Bottom line is If I choose to click on an ad then it's my choice. If I choose to make a purchase because I saw it advertised on a billboard on the streets then that's my choice too. My partner uses it for her business and majority of her clients are sourced via Facebook via likes and recommendations from other clients. We make it work for us. Yes Facebook has issues with all the privacy and info sharing dodgy stuff that has gone on but I don't care. Collectively they gain from us users but for me as an individual.. I know I'm getting more from them than what they get from me and that's all that matters.
  • Quitting is a challenge in and of itself for most. But it doesn't stop there. If you're quitting for privacy reasons, it might be a good time to install Ghostery or something similar to stop Facebook from shadow-profiling you too. Just because you don't have an account doesn't mean they don't have data about you.
  • I dropped it in 2010 after a couple of years of using it, not through any privacy concerns but I just realised that I wasn't interested in the stuff that other people were posting. It's turned out to be one of the best decisions I made
  • Even this website is connected to FB. You can log into comments with your FB account. There's a floating FB button at the bottom of every page.
  • I quit Facebook almost 8 years ago. However, plenty of other things like Reddit suck up my time.
  • Not to rain on anyone's parade, but it really is no longer about "kicking the habit". Having been in sociology for many MANY years, there is a direct correlation between the severe decline of social skills in children and young adults for the last 15 years, about when Facebook came to life. There is no direct evidence supporting the social decline, but the statistics are thought provoking. People simply do not know how to talk to each other any longer. People feel that when they get behind a keyboard, tablet, or cell phone, and they have all the power in the world to say what they please. When they are in person with the same people - average to high likelihood of complete social dysfunction. On the privacy hand, by law, Facebook had to disclose WHAT data was being shared, WHO it was being shared with, and WHY the receiver wanted it. This was an agreement Facebook entered into with the Federal government in 2011. Facebook quietly changed the public verbiage of their privacy policy to lull users into a feeling of control and privacy...then it backfired with Cambridge Analytica. Over 2018 it got worse and worse for Facebook. Do you realize how easy it is to set up an off-shore shell company claiming they do data analysis for children's clothing, and even falsify a 20-year history, accounting and all. When really, it is a pack of pedophiles trying to get information on children. You might think this sounds far fetched, but it's not...and what matters to Facebook? $$$ Larger companies and websites like this need to say 'no more' and start taking down links and sign-ins with Facebook. Hit them where it hurts - their wallets. Maybe they will start to respect their user's privacy... My life, my family's lives, and my friend's lives are not for sale. It's time to say goodbye to social media...
  • Correlation does not equal causation. As you said yourself "There is no direct evidence supporting the social decline"
  • He's absolutely correct! What happened to the phone calls,
    it all reminds me of high school drama! Which is 1 thing I could never stand, " he said, she said. "
    I never wanted people finding me on face book, just do it the old fashion way..
    A phone call.
    Exactly what I've happen to my daughter
    Someone I was with in the late 80s, contacted her, then told her he was her father, (he wanted$$)
    When I met this person my daughter was already a 1 and half years old already!
    But he still tried.
    When she came to me with this -face book was within 3-5 yrs of the making.
    At that point of time
    I told her this is why
    I will not join it!
    Till today still have haven't!
  • I've never fully embraced Facebook. I have an account, originally to keep up with family, but as I began to delve into using it - starting back around 2009 (my wife got on it about a year earlier), I didn't like some of the things it wanted to know about me. At first, I thought... "okay, it wants to know my favorite things... but why?". I started plugging in a few such favorite things - starting with music... but then I stopped. Canceled out before I finished. And since then, I've ignored those things - religion and political preferences in particular. I did include basic stuff like name, age, where I work... stuff that could have always been easy to find even before the days of the internet. I deleted the Facebook app off my old BlackBerry Z10 - for various reasons, but mostly because of the huge amount of background data it used even when only checked once every other week. Kept to just the browser, and I never used FB .
    Messenger. Got my Galaxy S8 just over a year ago and promptly disabled the app on it (since it can't be physically deleted). I still open the app in the browser every once in a while - ignore the constant brain-farts some of my family members who feel the need to share... everything, and occasionally like a post from my office about the work we do. I follow my work page, but I haven't friended anyone from work. I have thought of deleting my account over privacy issues, but I have so little of myself in there in the first place that there's nothing for anyone to get. I've looked up my own info that Facebook has on me, and it's basically nothing. I could probably count on two hands how many posts I've made on my page since I joined. I've posted maybe a few more responses to other posts, but not by much.
  • I don't have fb, anything with the word fb in it gets blocked by the firewall which also blocks a myriad other sites... I love my firewall :-)
  • So how did you see this article? 😉
  • I've tried to leave Facebook, results in me being an anti social hermit as no one bothers to reach out or invite me unless its via Facebook. I don't know about events, parties, concerts, etc. I also have friends that use Facebook messenger while not actually having a phone number, it's a bit absurd how much society relies on it.
  • I found it annoying and just closed the account and have never missed it. Piece of cake.
  • Yup - jumped off the FB train last year and gotta say, my life is sooo much better off without it. I have created a dummy account with my alter ego, Ezekiel Humperdink, with no personal data and no other integrations....simply to use the FB messenger app as our wider group of friends use it to co-ordinate stuff ( and that is required as I am the ONLY one an Android phone otherwise they would just use iMessage )... and I then only use it on PC - not on my phone. Apart from that... I have actually really enjoyed going back to communicating with people via phone calls and yes, even catching up over coffee!
  • Kicking Facebook isn't hard if you never signed up for it
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • I've been off Facebook for a couple years now. It was trivial. I just deleted the accounts and never looked back. Not hard at all. Just make the decision and stick to it. Don't be fickle.
  • If you're really going to deactivate Facebook you need to stop with WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. Ditched Facebook back in 2010. Ditched WhatsApp the moment it was sold to Facebook and the same with Instagram.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you can use FB Messenger standalone, without having a full-blown FB account. Just in case anybody is wanting to break off of their profile but still maintain the messenger functionality.
  • While I still have an account, there have been a number of helpful steps I've taken.
    A) turned off all notifications, absolutely all of them, including email and texts.
    B) I've drastically cut down the amount of times I post. From something like once a week a few years ago, to MAYBE once every other month, if that. Usually the things that show up are things I'm tagged in now.
    C) Going back and deleting old embarrassing things, and all the mundane things I don't even remember now. I don't need the "on this day" page to full of forgettable stuff
    D) Started, *gasp,* actually messaging people and talking to them instead of just reacting to status updates. Even just a, "hi, how have you been lately?" message can start some conversations.
  • I'm speaking just for myself, but I found it very easy to dump Facebook. My primary motivator: my so-called Facebook "friends." I found that most on my friends list were more casual acquaintances, such as old co-workers, and friends from college and high school. Oddly, most of them did not bother to post much anyway. And when they did, I found that I wasn't very interested in anything they had to say. Rather mundane, boring stuff about family or vacations. Nothing bad, but then again nothing terribly compelling. The bigger problem came from the 20 percent or so who did post regularly: they were consistently, unbearably friggin' ANNOYING. They constituted an hourly barrage of non-stop bad content that overwhelmed any of the more harmless contributions from my more normal friends. People who fancied themselves sudden expert socio-political commentators, spitting out their daily political rants. Others with narcissistic selfies, humble-brags and tales about their careers, their alma maters, their nightlife, and other self-important activities just to remind you that they were livin' the life. Individuals posting public messages on others' walls for all to see, openly discussing things that would better be handled in private. Wounded souls spilling the intimate details of their daily struggles and their journey to overcome their rotten childhoods. People leaving vague comments suggesting some deep personal tragedy, in a ploy to fish for sympathetic reactions. People using FB as their own personal sales tool, pushing their MLM schemes for cosmetics, weight loss powders and useless crap I'd never buy anyway. People acting out their petty feuds, grudges and rivalries and airing dirty laundry. People lurking 24/7 and constantly and reflexively "liking" every single photo or post on their feed. Scores of mindless and usually unfunny and uninteresting quotes, memes, poems, pictures, and links to things I could care less about. Loads of strange, troubling, disjointed, illogical, confusing and sometimes downright offensive nonsense that no doubt felt like something smart and witty when they typed it and hit "send." I found that distant relatives or people I'd hardly known were suddenly becoming the center of my universe...barging into my personal space spewing daily sprays of garbage, force-feeding me more than I ever cared to know about them, and all kinds of details I never asked for. Individuals hundreds or thousands of miles away who I'd never otherwise run into were causing me anxiety and upset and occupying precious real estate in my head. Psychologically it all felt like clutter and noise -- an unending, abusive, intrusive assault on my mind. FB was a thoroughly unpleasant experience that I didn't feel like managing by constantly "unfollowing" or "unfriending" violators or monkeying around with my settings. By then there was little of value anyway, and nothing to justify my hanging around. My conclusion is that FB is only as good as the input it receives, and for me sadly it was garbage in, garbage out. It stank of the putrefied rot churned out by people who have no business behind a keyboard. The cumulative result of allowing a platform for so many of them at once to pepper me with their quirks and behaviors was a noisy, jarring, overwhelming cacophony. So I slammed the lid shut and ended it. The relief was immediate, and blissful.