As social media continues to become more deeply integrated into our everyday lives, we are slowly becoming more aware of the fact that using social media carelessly doesn’t only affect our online lives. When you start thinking about how it can also impact our offline lives the idea of completely erasing a Facebook footprint starts to become exponentially more appealing. Whether the desire to delete a Facebook profile stems from an awareness of personal branding, disagreements with the networking giant’s business practices, or distrust regarding privacy issues, it’s not an altogether uncommon one. However, as many users have discovered, it’s not as easy as simply clicking a “delete” button.
The option to deactivate a Facebook account is found rather quickly within the user menus, though it does come complete with a not so subtle guilt trip. Once you begin to deactivate your account you’re met with a very passive-aggressive confirmation message that includes the profile picture of one of your friends and the statement, “Your friend will miss you”, something that is sure to make some user’s think twice before going through with the deactivation.
Deactivating your account is the first step to deleting an account, though it’s certainly not the end of the process. A deactivated account ID is for all purposes and intents disabled, but all of your information remains on the Facebook servers. Deactivated accounts can still be tagged in photographs and invited to events, which means that you’ll still receive notification emails from Facebook after the deactivation unless you opt out of their automated email system. Reactivating an account can be done by signing in to the Facebook site deliberately, or even by accidentally using a Facebook ID login on an unrelated site. Upon logging in, your full profile will be restored.
If you truly want to delete all traces of your account, following the somewhat difficult-to-locate Delete Your Account link will ostensibly remove all of the information you’ve shared on Facebook. A look at the fine print reveals, however, that this only deactivates your profile initially, leaving you with a 14 day period in which you can change your mind; logging in, deliberately or inadvertently, will restore your “deleted” profile to all of its former glory immediately. If you seriously want to delete your profile then during this 14 day period it’s best to avoid any services or sites that allow login with Facebook ID, otherwise you will have to complete the process all over again from the beginning. Deleting all cookies and clearing your browser cache, avoiding the Facebook Share button on other sites like the plague and removing any Facebook apps from your phone will help you avoid any accidental logins, but it’s important that you also pay close attention to your login activities during the two-week waiting period. Any Facebook connected accounts on other sites should be removed before beginning the profile deletion process as further insurance against an accidental restoration due to inadvertent logins. Sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting that your account be fully deleted may also speed up the deletion process, though even a profile deleted by the staff is likely to be subjected to the two-week waiting period.
In addition to making it difficult for novice web users to delete their accounts, Facebook has also been unclear about how much information is retained from an account once it has been deleted, and how long any retained information is stored. Though you may not be able to access your old account information, police and other authorities will still be able to obtain any data that Facebook has retained. This deliberately difficult deletion process makes a strong case for Facebook being invested in the data-mining industry, rather than being purely committed to social media and networking.