How to Quit Facebook for Good, From 10 People Who Have
Deciding to leave the social network is easy enough, but actually staying off presents its own challenges
Last Friday, Facebook announced its largest security breach to date, compromising the data of nearly 50 million users. The news broke less than a year after Facebook came under fire for another security scandal when it was revealed that political data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had collected personal information from users’ profiles. (Profiles on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, may have been compromised as well, though only if users had linked their accounts to Facebook.) It’s no surprise that in the last year, 54 percent of Facebook users 18 and older have made changes to their privacy settings, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey. And some people are simply opting out of the social network entirely.
But while quitting Facebook seems like an easy fix, actually staying off the platform is easier said than done. At its most innocuous, Facebook is a database of birthdays and events and a way to communicate without picking up the phone. Eliminating this trove of social information can feel alienating — you’re missing out on invitations, life updates, and other touchstones that keep you both passively and actively involved in people’s lives. Plus, you’ll lose access to other services that you signed up for with your Facebook login, like Spotify and Tinder — with some apps, like Instagram, you can simply de-link, but in most cases, you’ll have to create entirely new accounts. (It’s worth noting that Instagram, while less scandal-plagued than its parent company, has its own issues with privacy, though it may seem like the lesser of two evils for people who don’t want to go cold turkey on all social media.) Despite the challenges, successfully deleting your account is possible. Here, 10 anti-Facebookers explain their strategies for successfully adjusting to life without the social platform.
Start writing letters.
I quit Facebook in 2010 and I’ve never missed it. I text with friends and family I want to keep in touch with. I’ve even started writing letters again.
I have a handful of people I love keeping in touch with, so I just keep in touch with them. I don’t need to use Facebook to do that. I don’t need them to steal any more of my data for the arguable convenience it provides.
Get your social fix from other platforms.
I stopped using Facebook over five years ago, in 2013. Ultimately, I got tired of it. I had an epiphany one day where I didn’t want to spend a good portion of my time looking at the lives of other people. It was just a huge time sucker. I started using Twitter more frequently and I had always had an Instagram since it first came out, so I figured I’d focus any social media time on those two platforms because they’re less invasive of people’s lives.
— Melissa Stites, 28, graphic designer, Philadelphia
Facebook groups are often used for communication among teams, though lately I’ve begun noticing more and more communities shifting to Slack. The truth is, it’s not that hard to keep in touch. I use a mix of chat apps, Slack, Skype, and regular-old SMS and phone calls. It takes effort, but in the end, it’s worth it. Facebook, to me, is lazy friendship.
— Nithin Coca, 35, freelance journalist, Oakland
I pulled the plug in March 2018. it was difficult to adjust to not having that platform in my life anymore — I went from knowing almost every detail of my friends, past students, and families’ lives to almost nothing. I used to open up Facebook first thing in the morning and go through my routine of responding and seeing who was up to what. But with anything, time smooths all wrinkles and sometimes I forget Facebook exists. My former students have my email and a lot have my phone number. They know they can share it if another student needs it or they can find me on Twitter or Instagram.
— John Romano, 40, science teacher, Philadelphia
I quit Facebook five or so years ago. I was creeped out by the thought of Facebook data mining for my preferences as a consumer. I could see how people started using Facebook not for telling family members what they did on the weekends, but the politicization and polarization brought on by today’s political landscape.
But there are a lot of social media tools that request you sign on with Facebook, and as a publicist, sometimes I have to look around Facebook for some information. It’s hard because Facebook always wants you to start up an account. I have found ways around that. I log in using other people’s credentials or have other members look up, say, a company profile.
— Steve Fisher, 56, president of a marketing and PR firm, Los Angeles
Step up your texting.
Since the 2016 election, Facebook went from being a place to keep up with people to an all-out battleground about politics. Facebook became a cesspool and I wanted out. I just made Instagram my main thing. So to the handful I was missing out on, I told them to join me on Instagram. To the ones I only kept up with on Facebook and nowhere else, I just bit the bullet and said bye. If Facebook is our only form of communication, they aren’t close friends or family anyhow. It was easy for me — but I do have to text my mom more pictures of her grandkids now. It was and is relieving, actually: less stress, less anxiety, more free time. I don’t miss it at all.
— Brian Lenney, 39, copywriter, Boise
I deleted Facebook in 2012. I was in school full time, working full time, and had a deadline coming for my thesis defense. The kicker was when I was in a social psychology class at the time and a well- known psychologist explained that the brain looks at the newsfeed and interprets it as one person: Everyone’s highlight reel turns into one superhuman who you need to keep up with at all times. All of a sudden, you need to travel to Italy, get a graduate degree, get married, have a baby, buy a house, all in the next year.
The first time I really noticed not having Facebook was when I was looped in on a party last minute because someone forgot I wasn’t on the Facebook event. Instagram, in a way, slowly replaced Facebook and helped keep me connected. Group texts also became more common and I think brought close circles of friends as well as my family together as a quick way to keep in touch.
— Colette Glatts, 29, managed services manager, Philadelphia
Download your data.
I’ve been in the tech space for a decade and quit Facebook over a year ago. By going in and downloading all of my data, I was able to get everyone’s contact info and birthdays. Now my life is actually better because the birthdays are in my calendar, which prompts me to text my friends and dormant ties instead of a Facebook like, which doesn’t have nearly the personal impact as a direct text does.
— Adam C. Conrad, 32, software consultant and founder of Anon Consulting, Boston
Think about the relationships you want to prioritize.
I personally hate social media and quit Facebook and Instagram two years ago. I never had Snapchat, and I got rid of Twitter a while ago. [Social media] is a competitive public forum: I don’t need to prove my life is better or cooler than anyone else’s.
If your friends are truly good friends, then they won’t forget you exist when you leave Facebook. Not being on social media requires you to speak with someone personally to learn about their life.
— Nicole Faith, 26, founder, 10 Carat Creations, New York
I deleted Facebook about six years ago because it felt like everything about everyone’s lives was so curated. The first four years, it was easy for me to keep in touch with people because of having a restaurant job in my neighborhood where it felt like I knew everyone. As time went on, I became busier [and] my local social bubble changed. I began to feel like people I cared about were forgetting about me.
This has been a huge social learning experience for me about what kind of friendships I want in my life. I don’t want people in my life liking my photos on the internet, but not being able to acknowledge me when I see them in real life. I recently got back on Instagram because I was feeling so alienated. I follow about 90 people I care about, and 20 animal accounts.
— Amber Hayes, 28, server, Philadelphia