I don’t have any actual statistical data to back this up, but by my reckoning, over the past 4-5 years I’ve been running C2, at least one out of every five people I’ve spoken with at length have expressed some interest in leaving the bulk of social media behind, and most of them have lumped email into that category as well. Granted, many times when I’m talking with people it’s while I’m on the job, so there’s usually a substantial reason they aren’t best friends with technology at that moment. I imagine every one of us at one point has wished a certain ornery piece of technology could be instantly reduced to a smoking pile of ash, and I’m pretty certain at least a few of you have followed through on the threat and have destroyed something that beeps or glows with vengeful delight. Despite the fact that I find little use for social media personally, I definitely do not underestimate the value and power it holds for business and organizations, so I recommend careful, deliberate consideration before doing anything you might regret professionally, but making a clean break as an individual may bring balance back to your private life.
Ready to make a change?
Make no mistake, the instructions provided in the following two articles will require effort, with the second being considerably more involved. There is no silver bullet, mystical pill or magic wand that will get you off the grid – the internet has a long memory that is probably close to impossible to wipe, as many, many people have come to learn the hard way. Here’s the bad news up front: if you are looking to exit social media because of past, less-than-discrete but publicly shared incidents, the best you will be able to accomplish is shielding your own eyes and ears from digital reprobation and reminders, but unless everyone around you also walks away from social media forever, the most you can expect is protecting yourself from possible future life-damaging (and potentially viral) faux pas.
The Clean Break Approach: this article from Wired gets right to the bones of the matter – deleting your social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list – if you’ve been busy in social media, this might only be a small part of your online “portfolio”, but for most of us, these are the mainstays, and in some cases (like Facebook) will require some effort to truly delete the account. If you want to remove yourself from the Internet, following this guide will get you as close as you might be able to accomplish without deep cash reserves and a small army of skilled hackers.
The “Secret Identity” Approach (warning: link contains soft paywall): maybe an exaggeration, but hopefully colorful enough to accurately describe this approach. In essence, it’s a fairly general guide to constructing an online, public-facing persona that excludes your private data while still enabling you to participate in the various internet-based platforms out there. Important to note: this path is actually more technically complicated and one I would only recommend pursuing if you need to maintain a social media presence. This is most definitely not the way to simplify your digital life.
Whichever approach you take, including the “I’ve got nothing to hide” one, you should never forget that for every minute you spend online you are building a comprehensive permanent, indelible digital “fingerprint”. We humans make the mistake in thinking that the internet remembers like we do. Or maybe we are forgetting that it never forgets, and can compile data on us from incomprehensible angles. Either way, if you remember anything, remember the only way to truly hide yourself from the eye of the Internet is to not use it.