Welcome to Facebook. You can checkout anytime you like, but you can never leave

Leaving Facebook is hard work. Really hard work. The kind of hard work that leaves you sweating in the desert heat wearing nothing but striped pajamas and shackles while the warden shouts derogatory cusswords in your direction. The kind of hard work that saps your soul as you watch it swirling down the drain like so much half-used soap while your fingers knead your rubbed-raw body that still isn’t quite clean.

Hard work. I spent three hours today copying contact information from Facebook in preparation for my year long Facebook fast, and it was vividly obvious to me that Facebook considers my social network their property. And that make me all the more eager to complete the process of extracting myself, even though I already had plenty of incentive to quit Facebook.

Before Leaving Facebook

Yet haste can quickly lead to regret, it’s good to make a few preparations before leaving Facebook.

  • Copy friends contact information across. Email addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, etc. Anything that you’d like to remember after you leave Facebook. I did this manually for a few of my Facebook friends, but there are some automated tools to do something similar. Though unfortunately they keep getting blocked by Facebook. I believe Lifehacker’s workaround that uses Yahoo as an intermediary still works.
  • Download photos. You can easily download all your uploaded photos by using a built in feature of Facebook. Go to Account Settings, then click ‘Download a copy’ at the bottom of the page. This won’t let you download any friend’s photos, so you’ll have to do this manually.
  • Restrict access to your profile. Whether you’re deleting your Facebook account entirely, or just taking a brief hiatus it’s a good idea to doublecheck who has access to view your details. I’d recommend setting it to Friends only, and removing any sensitive information. Also take a look through the Tags settings, so you don’t get tagged in a bunch of photos while you’re away. There are no guarantees that your settings will stay private, since Facebook has a habit of changing privacy settings whenever them whim takes it.

If you’re really serious about leaving Facebook, then you might consider deleting your account. I don’t plan to delete my account just yet, I’d like to get through the year first 🙂

How to Delete Your Facebook Account

Deleting your Facebook account is again another mystery which you need to search to unravel. I find some great guidance here: How to delete your facebook account.

Simply, the instructions say:

  • Go to this address http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account
  • Follow the steps to delete your account
  • DO NOT LOGIN for 14 days. If you login then your account will be reactivated. This includes logging in through your phone, or clicking like buttons on websites or logging in to any service that uses Facebook Connect.

Happy unFacebooking!