Do you long for days gone by, when our lives were led in the real world rather than online? Perhaps you’re unhappy with the way social media makes you feel. Or maybe you’d just like your life to be more private. Maybe it’s time for you to disappear from the internet. Completely.
Since the birth of the internet, people all over the world have posted their personal data, embarrassing photos and heated opinions to various websites, forums and social media platforms, to the point where many of our lives are now an open book.
The abundance of this personal data can have consequences
- Hackers are selling our personal (and financial) data to the highest bidder.
- Employers screen candidates on social media before hiring.
- It’s easy to post things you might regret.
Perhaps you’ve got a history of embarrassing posts. Maybe you’re just ready for a simpler life. Either way, there’s plenty that you can do. Here’s our step by step guide on how to perform an impressive vanishing act.
So, Are You Ready to Pull the Plug?
Even if it’s just a little clearout, perhaps remove a few of your cheekier photos, tone down your social media posts, or even make them private, there’s lots you can do to maintain a lower profile online.
But if you want to go the whole hog, strap yourself in and prepare to disappear…
Step 1: Social Media
Twitter (founded: 2006, ~325 million active users)
- Click on your profile picture
- Select “Settings and privacy”
- Select “Account” and scroll to the bottom
- Select “Deactivate your account”
- Twitter will prompt you for your password
Find more info about deleting your Twitter account here.
Facebook (founded: 2004, ~2.2 billion active users)
- Click on your menu (top right)
- Select “Settings”
- Select “Your Facebook Information”
- Desktop – Select “Delete your account and information”
Mobile – Select “Account ownership and control” and then “Deactivation and deletion”
- Choose whether you want temporary or permanent deletion
Find out more about deleting your Facebook account here.
LinkedIn (founded: 2002, ~500 million active users)
- Click on your profile picture
- Select “Settings and Privacy”
- Select “Closing your LinkedIn account”
- Confirm your deletion
Get more information on deleting your LinkedIn account here.
Instagram (Founded: 2010, ~800 million active users)
- Click on your profile icon
- Scroll to the footer and select “Privacy”
- Click on “Managing Your Account” then “Delete Your Account”
- Confirm your deletion
Find out more about deleting your Instagram account here.
That’s the simple stuff. Goodbye embarrassing pictures and posts! It’s time to move on.
Step 2: Going Further, Finding Yourself
Simple and quick, deleting your social media accounts can go a long way towards reducing your online presence. But it’s not enough to let you completely disappear. If you’re serious about this, you’re going to have to work a bit harder.
The next step is to Google yourself… and Bing yourself and so on… until you find all the places you might have personal data behind.
Once you find something, you’ll need to login to that site, or service. Delete your account and any comments, pictures or other content you might have uploaded. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But we could be talking years worth of accounts here, and plenty of data in different places. There are a few hurdles you might need to overcome to get this job done.
Forgotten Your Password?
The first challenge? You can’t remember your password for that site you left a comment on…um…5 years ago? Don’t panic! Most sites have an option to reset via your email, if not contact the site administrators who should be able to help.
There are also plenty of sites that offer direct links to account deletion pages (such as backgroundchecks.org/justdeleteme). There are also free, or paid-for services, that will do all the hard work for you (such as DeleteMe – PAID or Deseat.me – FREE)
What If I Can’t Delete Myself?
Sometimes, you can’t delete an account, or a comment. It’s there forever! Well, don’t panic, simply login and change your personal details. Now it looks like a total stranger made those ridiculous comments!
Wipe Yourself from the Search
If you live in the EU, then you’ve got access to the URL removal tool from Google. You have to fill out a fair bit of information, but it might be the only way to wipe certain instances of personal data.
Step 3: Unsubscribe, and Wave Goodbye
Thought you’d done it? Well, you’re almost there. But even having an email address which is subscribed to a variety of emails means companies hold data on you. Our inboxes are continually bombarded with emails from companies trying to sell us their products or services, and they often use purchase history or preference data to do this.
You can do something about this too. The good news is that each of these emails SHOULD come with an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. Work your way through them, unsubscribing to each one. It might take a while, but you’ll be a step closer to disappearing.
How Far Do You Go?
If you’ve gone through the above steps, the chances are there’ll still be some of your personal data out there. However, you’ve made a good job of making it harder to find. If you’re serious about disappearing completely though, you need to take the final step and delete your email accounts.
IMPORTANT: If you do delete your email account, you need to be aware this is a final step – there’s no going back. Taking this step might mean you lose access to important services and reminders (e.g. tax reminders, bank security updates etc) not to mention emails from loved ones. It’s completely up to you whether you take this step.
Step 4: The Future and Keeping a Low Profile
Even if you succeed in completely removing yourself from the internet, the chances are you’ll still want to use the web. So how can you keep a low profile and in control of your personal data?
Choose Your Pseudonym
Become somebody else, choose a cryptic email address
Avoid Social Media
You’ve deleted your accounts already, but if you must snoop on social media, you could do this under a pseudonym too.
Always use private mode when browsing, or better still use a search engine like DuckDuckGo which is anonymous and doesn’t collect data on your search history.
If you buy anything online, you’re going to have to reveal certain personal data. If you shop local, you don’t. Simple.
Go Off Radar
Turn off the GPS on your phone to prevent any apps from tracking your whereabouts, daily activities and trends. Don’t use 4G or public wifi. Ideally, ditch the smartphone and go low-tech.
Good luck, and stay hidden!