How to unfollow friends and delete your digital footprint.
Originally posted February 10, 2012 as part of a blogging assignment for my post-graduate program. I’ve decided to redirect all posts to here to keep things consistent.
Recently, on the advice of an instructor and the nagging voice in the back of my head that kept telling me to “cover my tracks”, I embarked on a virtual trek to delete old, dusty accounts attached to my name or my aliases. Along the way I found accounts connected to social buying sites such as Livingsocial, music sites like Last.fm and corporate sites I’d joined to vote for contests. After my hard work, when you google my name you find ten carefully curated accounts that represent the way I wish to be viewed online. Applause.
But it’s a bit trickier for me than for most, there is only one other person in the world (according to google) with my name, so almost anything connected to me is easily searchable. If I had a more common name like Danielle Smith, this wouldn’t be such a problem. In a world where cultivating your personal brand and using SEO tactics to advance above your peers is important, I’m fortunate enough to already be at the top of the heap, at least, in terms of my name.
This exercise made me wonder, how much do people truly care about over-sharing? I agonized about leaving a connection to an anime website I used to contribute to, worried that people would perceive my writing as amateur and geeky when really, it was exemplary that a 16 year old was engaged and producing online journalism. Don’t get me wrong, I was no Tavi Gevinson, but I didn’t want to edit out a portion of my work and my life.
But for those who grew up with Facebook as teens, this could be a more serious problem. With the recent launch of Facebook Timeline, it’s possible to dig up dirt on profiles that was once nearly impossible to find. The only way to wipe this clean? A 14 day ‘purge’ of Facebook to properly deactive the account. While I disagree with the skewed poll options in a recent Digital Trends article about worries over Facebook Timeline, it summarizes the complications of this two week deactivation period and the complicated ways in which users need to ‘opt out’ of web activity.
With popular sites like Suicide Machine and Delete Your Account dedicated to walking you through the steps required to remove your account from popular websites, it appears that everybody has at least a few online profiles they’d love to forget. In my experience, it was a cathartic exercise in email/reputation management and a walk through memory lane. While I’m nowhere near ready to get myself off the grid and delete Facebook, at least I know I’m not the only one.