If you’ve ever uploaded an embarrassing photo onto Facebook, posted something foolish after one too many beers, or sent a poorly thought out friend request to a former significant other from the pre-Facebook days, does it really matter? You can just delete it and nobody will remember it ever happened, won’t they?
Well, Facebook will. It’s kept a log of more or less every movement you’ve ever made on the social media site, right from the day you reluctantly signed up, through to the moment you forgot to log out of it this morning. What’s more, you can get hold of this log yourself and relive all your most cringeworthy social media activities since the start of your Facebook life.
It’s surprisingly easy to do this. Here’s how:
1. Log on to Facebook. It’s advisable to do it on a desktop device rather than a mobile as it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
2. On the blue bar across the top of the page, click the downward-pointing arrow just to the right of the padlock. Select ‘Settings’ from the dropdown menu.
3. You should now see some information about your General Account Settings. Underneath this, you’ll see a link reading ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’. Click this.
4. Click the green ‘Start My Archive’ button. You may be asked to re-enter your Facebook password here for added security.
5. Check your inbox and download the file.
Remember, it will go to the email account through which your Facebook account is registered. It’s advisable to download it immediately as the link will expire quickly.
That’s it. You now have a zip file of all your Facebook wittering, selfie sharing and even the browsers and IP addresses you’ve used to log in. It’s not in the most aesthetically pleasing of formats, but it’s all there.
From my data, three things I’ve discovered about myself are:
1. I changed my profile picture about 10 times in my first few weeks on Facebook, but have hardly bothered since.
2. I’ve only ever ‘unfriended’ one person, even though many have pushed me close. Well done to that one person for being exceptionally irritating!
3. I’ve never ‘poked’ anybody. What was that all about anyway?
All this is another reminder, if it were needed, that the internet is an archive. Deleting your contributions to it doesn’t get rid of them any more than switching off the TV gets rid of the programmes. They’re still there, it’s just that you can’t see them!
Depending on how cynical you are, you might also ask if this is what Facebook’s making publicly available, what data does it hold to be used for its own purposes? It’s why people should be careful with how they act and what they reveal about themselves through social media. What juicy secrets could people learn about you if they got their hands on your Facebook archive document?