selfaware soup

Esther Weidauer

Facebook Cleanup

2021-06-12

Glitchy Facebook logo

Over the last few days I used most of my spare time to clean out my Facebook profile. I didn’t want to fully delete my account there in order to keep the ability to message people but I wanted to remove everything else. Here’s how that went:

While Facebook does technically provide tools to delete any type of activity you have on there, it’s also clear that they really don’t want you to actually do that. I guess it’s to comply with regulations mostly. The main tool where you’ll probably start is the “Activity Log”. It lists various types of activity by date, you can filter by year, and you can bulk-delete things in batches. Here is we you into the first issue: there seems to be a maximum size of these batches but it’s documented nowhere and also appears to vary. If you try to delete too many items at once, you’ll get an unhelpful error message and afterwards, no deletion will work anymore until you logout and login again.

The batch deletion is also only available for certain types of items, pretty much only for posts, comments and interactions as for example likes. Profile picture uploads for example are not included.

The Activity Log is also frequently missing items so once you think you have finished you’ll have to do a second and third run, letting a few hours pass between them to allow caches and whatever storage tiering they have going in to stabilise again. Eventually the list will be empty.

Next are the items you can’t delete in bulk. Get ready for a lot of repetitive mouse clicking because of course none of this is keyboard accessible. When you’ve been on Facebook for a while (ten years in my case) there’s an astonishing amount of stuff there. Likely more than you think. The same issues as above still apply: multiple passes, waiting in between, etc, except this time you have to delete (and confirm the deletion) for every single thing manually. Just great. I re-watched the entire second season of Snowpiercer while doing this.

That leaves the weird things, the ones Facebook seemingly doesn’t let you delete at all. This includes cover photo uploads and some other photos too where I really couldn’t figure out what made them special. What helped there was the mobile web version of Facebook (the thing that lives at m.facebook.com). I suspect that it hasn’t been fully updated to the same processes that are used on the desktop version. It lists some items in the Activity Log that don’t appear otherwise. But it also doesn’t have delete options for them. Although here I rather suspect that some item types are just too new and the old mobile web UI can’t handle them properly.

So, what you need to is: go to the mobile web Activity Log, open each remaining item in a new tab so you don’t have to reload the Log, because that is horribly slow. Then in those new tabs, change the m. subdomain to www. to get back to the new UI for that item which has the delete option. This also is very tedious and time consuming.

For a final check I installed the iOS app again temporarily and checked the Activity Log and my profile there too. Unsurprisingly there were still a few things in there but not many. After deleting those through the app I let 24 hours pass and checked all three versions again (web desktop, web mobile, app) and everything was empty as intended. The only entries left were my birthday, bio, and my current profile and cover photo.