If you’re like me and about 1.79 billion of my closest friends, you have a Facebook account—yes, that’s billion (with a b), and growing. In fact, it’s a 16 percent increase from the 2015 figure, according to Facebook’s 2016 Q3 Earnings Report. Of those 1.79 billion, 1.18 billion log into Facebook daily, and 1.09 billion do so on a mobile device. That’s a lot of numbers, so let me put it to you another way: Facebook is big. It’s so big, in fact, that Facebook’s community of users now tops the population of China. Seriously. That’s big.
And we, Facebook are nothing if not loyal. We produce a mind-boggling amount of data every day, everything from posted photos, shared videos, likes, shares, status updates, ads, you name it, the list goes on. Think about it, though—how much of what you post on the social media giant is really worth keeping? From the cringe-worthy to the downright mundane, we’ve all got some skeletons in our Facebook closets that are skulking around in the depths of our activity logs. What’s the point of keeping it all, anyway, and contributing to the data overload? What value is there in a comment made when you lost your mind during the election season, or a curse-filled rant, or even a check-in at a local hangout last New Year’s Eve? Have you noticed, with the social giant’s “memories” function, that when re-read at a later date, many of your interactions and/or posts from a few years back are simply un-shareable today, that they lack the context that made them important “in the moment?” I have. They’ve just become snippets of noise in the already deafeningly full cyberspace junkyard.
The Facebook’s greatest value (from a company standpoint) is the data it has about you. If you control—and regularly purge—said data, Facebook has less control, so it just may be time to take back the reins when it comes to your own Facebook data. Job seekers, I’m looking at you. But that’s fodder for another post. It’s your data, after all—you giveth, and you can taketh away. So, what do you say? Wanna clean that mess up? Here’s how to get started.
How Far Are You Willing to Go?
If you’ve decided cleaning up your Facebook history is a worthwhile cause—and you’ve got to take it to that level of commitment, because it can be a time-consuming task—you’ll first need to determine what to dump. Are you going to go all out, deleting years’ worth of actions at once? Or, are you going to pick and choose what to keep and what to get rid of? Option one will be the quicker of the two approaches, and will definitely pack the biggest punch. Like tearing away a bandage, it’s fast, and it’ll only sting a little. Option two gives you more options, of course, but sifting through years’ worth of activity is a chore. If you’ve got a business page or any other special considerations for keeping around particular pieces of data while still purging the rest, however, it can be a good compromise.
Either route you choose, you’ll want to save a copy of your history just in case. To do this, complete the following steps:
Step 1. Log into Facebook and click on the down arrow at the top right of your screen.
Step 2. Click Settings.
Step 3. At the very bottom of the page, click Download a copy of your Facebook data.
Step 4. Facebook will send you the link to download a zipped file package containing everything you’ve ever posted.
Step 5. Enjoy your peace of mind and begin deleting.
Now, Commence Operation Purge
There are a few ways to accomplish most tasks these days—you can do them manually, you can automate them, or, if you’re particularly tech savvy, you can start fresh to find new solutions. Deleting your Facebook data is no different.
Manual Deletion. You can certainly try to go the old-fashioned route and delete everything manually. Simply navigate to your profile and find the Activity Log at the top. That will recount everything you’ve ever done on Facebook, and you’ll see that each item has a pencil icon next to it. Clicking the pencil will allow you to delete, unlike, etc.
Now, Facebook went public to all non-students in 2006. If you’ve been active since for that many years, you’re probably not going to want to start hunting and pecking through it all, manually deleting everything—unless you have a really long layover or uncomfortable family gathering coming up and need the distraction, that is.
Automated Deletion. According to a recent Business Insider piece, there are two primary options for automated deletion: Facebook Timeline Cleaner and Facebook Post Manager. While the scripts do have merit, Facebook is constantly changing code, making it difficult for the developers to keep up. Waiting for an updated version could take time on the front end, but it could also save you time in the long run if you can run the program. Perusing the message boards tells me many have not had luck, while others have broken through. At present, though, they appear to be hit or miss.
The good news? There’s another way.
Start Fresh. If you truly want to get rid of that pesky Facebook data and don’t have any qualms about deleting your account, this option is for you. Simply message your friends and contacts you want to keep, telling them that you’re making a new account and deleting your current one. Then, start over. This time, make sure you go through and delete your data from your activity log on a regular basis so as not to encounter this problem in the future.
Did any of the above suggestions strike a chord with you? On a higher level, how do you feel about your relationship with The Facebook—or social media in general? What purpose does it serve for you, your business, or even your career? Do you think purging your past data is worth your time, or is it far down on your priority list? It’s not a priority for me, but I can see how it would be for many.
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A version of this was first posted on V3b.com