How to delete your Facebook account

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Here's our guide to making the site less noisy, deactivating your account or the nuclear option - delete it completely

Facebook may have heralded a modern communication revolution, but for some it can get all a bit too much. Here's how to navigate all those complex settings on notifications and privacy to make Facebook work for you. Even if that means deleting your account completely.

It is possible to completely delete your Facebook profile – photos, messages, videos and friends – but before you burn your Facebook bridge and leave the world's largest social network, there are a few tricks worth trying.

Turn off notifications

Facebook can be at its most irritating when bombarding you with notifications. By default, almost any action creates a notification and most of those automatically fire off an email to let you know something just happened.

It can be overwhelming, but simply changing a few options in the notification settings menu can bring it back under control. There are 57 individual actions you can chose to whether to be emailed about giving you granular control over what constitutes something that is worthy of filling up your inbox.

‘Friend cull’

If turning down the number of notifications doesn't fix the issue, one of the most effective ways of stopping Facebook from being a rat race competition for approval is a friend cull.

Reducing your bulging “friends” list down to only those people who you genuinely consider to be your friend is a good way to get your Facebook experience back under control.

It can feel like a betrayal deleting people, but if you set yourself a steadfast rule – for instance, only remain friends with people you’ve had direct contact with in three months or those that you see in person – then it can be a lot easier.

A similar experience can be obtained with lists, but it is a lot more fiddly, categorising your Facebook contacts into lists and excluding some from your posts while whitelisting others.

Deactivate your profile

There are two stages to removing yourself from Facebook. The first – Facebook’s preferred method – is simply a deactivation of your profile rather than a full deletion.

Deactivation is a bit of misnomer. Technically your Facebook profile is deactivated, but as the deactivation confirmation page (where Facebook insists you give a reason for leaving) handily notes:

“Even after you deactivate, your friends can still invite you to events, tag you in photos or ask you to join groups. If you opt out [of emails from Facebook], you will NOT receive these email invitations and notifications from your friends.”

Which is an indelicate way of reminding you that by deactivating your account, you might miss on things.

Kill it with fire

If you've tried deactivating account and still want to end your Facebook existence once and for all, there are a couple of steps you need to perform first to make sure it is fully deleted.

First, it is probably advisable to download all the data Facebook keeps on you. From the general account settings menu, a small link will allow you to package up your data and download it as one archive, including all your photos, messages and profile information.

The second step is one of the most important if you truly want to delete your account. When you hit the final delete button, Facebook gives you a 14-day grace period to cancel the termination.

If you log in to Facebook either on the site or through any connected app, it will automatically cancel the account deletion.

You must log out of anything connected with Facebook. That includes any app or service that you’ve connected or logged into through Facebook, including Spotify, Instagram, and the calendar app on your smartphone.

The easiest way to do that on the desktop is to clear your browser’s cache and cookies, but you will still have to manually log out of any apps you have installed and connected to your Facebook account, such as the Spotify desktop app for example.

Remember to do the same on your smartphone and tablet, otherwise simply opening a Facebook-connected app on your mobile device will trigger account reactivation.

Once you have cleared all your apps and are ready to actually go through with it, the next task is to find the delete account link. It is hidden within Facebook’s help pages under “delete account”.

Once there, hit the delete account button for the final time, plug in your password and fill in the security captcha. Once you click the OK button the deed is done. You will have to wait 14 days before all your data is deleted, of course, but you will immediately disappear from the social network so that your friends will not be able to contact you in any way through Facebook.

Rather drastic action

Deleting your Facebook account permanently is a rather drastic action. There are ways to tailor the social network to your needs, as we've already explained; withdrawing fully from Facebook unfortunately means missing out on a chunk of modern, social media-connected life.

Event invites, birthday reminders, instant messaging and chat, as well as photo and video sharing are not easily replaced by one service. The ambient maintenance of friendship, especially for those separated by distance, is not something to be overlooked either, as Facebook has replaced things like the annual Christmas and birthday card.

Various other services offer similar tools to Facebook, but the social network's biggest strength is the sheer number of users it has - 1.23 billion at last count. When one single place is frequented by your mum, your best friend, your work colleagues and your favourite personalities, it is very hard to replace.

• Why ditching Facebook feels like opting out of modern lifePowered by article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for on Tuesday 4th February 2014 15.06 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010