Social media is making you miserable. Here’s how to delete your accounts. | Popular Science
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Social media is making you miserable. Here’s how to delete your accounts.

So long, and thanks for all the Likes.

iPhone X

Ditch your social apps—for good.

In theory, social media promises to connect you with the world. In practice, it compromises your personal privacy, puts you at risk of online abuse, and makes you unsatisfied and unhappy with your real life. If you're irritated by Twitter or depressed by Facebook, you don't have to stick around.

We've previously discussed a few methods to help you avoid social media for limited periods of time. When you're ready to say goodbye for good, it's time to delete those social apps from your phone—and shut down your accounts entirely. Here's how to do it, one network at a time.

First steps

Before you start erasing all of your content, you might want to download some or all of it. This will let you preserve a personal copy for posterity. To do this for the biggest social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat—follow our guide to saving social media posts.

Next, make sure you're deleting your account for the right reason. If you're ready to bid farewell to the whirlwind of social media, that's fine. But if you're only closing down your current social media account so you can create a new one for a fresh start, hit pause. Your first step should be to check the do-over options the network gives you. On Instagram, for instance, you can change your username without shutting down your existing account. Once you've exhausted the existing options, you can move on to deactivating or deleting your account.

Facebook

When you get fed up with Facebook, you have two ways to remove yourself from the giant network: deactivation or deletion.

Let's start with the less extreme option. If you deactivate your account, it will disappear from Facebook, but you can bring it back at any time: The network retains all of your data, which will be waiting for you if you decide to go back. Simply log in to your account again, and Facebook will reactivate it.

To deactivate your account from a web browser, visit the site and click the drop-down arrow on the top right of the screen. Choose Settings, then General, and look for the Manage account category. Next to it, you should see an Edit option. Click Edit and choose Deactivate your account. Next, Facebook will prompt you for your password and ask you to give a reason for leaving, such as privacy concerns or wasted time. Make your choice, click Deactivate, and you're done.

You can also deactivate your account through a mobile app. On iOS, open the app and hit the menu button—a grid icon—in the lower right corner. Then tap Settings, Account Settings, General, Manage account, and Deactivate. On Android, you follow the same process, but the menu button looks like three horizontal lines and you can reach Account Settings from the first submenu.

Deactivation is a good way of testing the waters to see if you can live without Facebook. Give it a few months and see how you feel. When you're ready to say goodbye to your account forever, it's time to delete it. To do so, you have to visit this page in a web browser and click Delete my account. As far as your friends are concerned, you will disappear immediately. However, Facebook may take up to 90 days to fully erase all of your data. Once you do that, there's no going back.

Twitter

If you've had all you can take of hashtags and tweetstorms, you can deactivate your Twitter account. For a set period, the social network will hang on to your data, but after that, it will permanently get rid of your account.

To get rid of Twitter, you need to visit this page in a web browser and scroll down to the Deactivate your account option. Read the information that Twitter provides, then click Deactivate. You'll receive a prompt to enter your password and to confirm that yes, you really do want to deactivate your account.

Once you do so, the process of erasing your Twitter presence starts. As far as other users can see, your profile and tweets will vanish immediately. However, Twitter hangs on to your data for a grace period of 30 days (verified users get a full 12 months) to make sure you don't change your mind. During this time, you can still log back into the site, an act that will restore your profile and all of your tweets from the digital grave.

After that 30- to 365-day period ends, Twitter will officially delete your data and you will lose it forever. So if you repent your decision and decide to return to Twitter, you'll need to sign up for a brand new account.

Instagram

Nothing instills FOMO quite like your friends' smug Instagram photos. Remove them from your life by either deactivating or deleting your account.

To deactivate, you have to go through the Instagram website rather than the mobile apps. Log in, click your profile icon on the top right, choose Edit Profile, and select Temporarily disable my account. Once you do that, you have to decide on a reason why you no longer feel the Instagram love—options range from Just need a break to Too many ads. Finally, enter your account password and click Temporarily Disable Account.

Much like Facebook's deactivation option, this choice will put your account on hold. As far as other users know, your Instagram page is gone, but the social network will hang on to your photos, comments, and other data. Log into the site again, and it will instantly restore your account.

For a more permanent fix, you need to go to the dedicated Delete Your Account page online. Log in, give a reason for your defection, and enter your password. Finally, click Permanently delete my account. This will wipe all traces of your Instagram life from the network's servers, including the likes and instant messages. If you decide to come back, you'll have to start again from scratch.

Snapchat

If Snapchat loses its appeal, have your account disappear like the vanishing photos that made the social network a hit.

To do that, you need to open your web browser and head to this page (yes, Snapchat has a website too). Sign into your account if necessary, then enter your username and password again on the subsequent screen. (Why sign in twice? You have to prove that it really is you and express your determination to get rid of Snapchat.) Click Continue, and the process of removing you from Snapchat begins.

From this point on, your friends won't be able to contact you on Snapchat, but as with Twitter, you get a grace period before permanent deletion occurs. Over the next 30 days, you can decide whether you really do want to depart from the world of Snapchat or not. If you log back into the network before that time is up, your account will reappear and you can carry on as before with the same username and contacts list.

After the 30 days pass, Snapchat will permanently erase your account from its network. To come back from that, you'll have to start adding friends and collecting Snaps all over again.

Other networks

Although Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat currently dominate the app charts, they're not the only social networks out there. Still, you can always find the option to close your account.

While these networks will let you delete your account, they won't always make that option easy to find. So if you get stuck, check the support pages for that network, which should point you in the right direction. (To deactivate Tumblr, for example, you simply scroll down to the bottom of the settings page.) Support pages should also provide details about exactly what happens to your data when you click "delete" and how quickly it disappears from existence.

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