What you should know if you want to disconnect from social networks

Part of the attraction of social networking is being able to tell friends and strangers what's going on in your life.  Even when you clo...

Part of the attraction of social networking is being able to tell friends and strangers what's going on in your life. Even when you close an account, some sites may retain your data and keep an "inactive" version of your profile in case you decide to return.

Send, Tweet, share and repeat.

What you should know if you want to disconnect from social networks
But suppose you are concerned about revealing too much and want to protect your privacy. You can delete your social networking accounts and try to hide your digital trail, but keep in mind that the process can be laborious and not always infallible.

Why do you want to delete your account?

Experts warn that it is not good to try to erase every trace of you on the internet.

Instead of erasing your presence on social networks, purge it by removing or disabling inactive accounts, said Amy Lavin, a computer systems management professor at Temple University.

Lavin stated that she had recently deleted her Myspace account because she had created it years ago, she probably had a "very simple" password and wanted to reduce the risk that someone could take photos of her profile and use them against her.
"I think it's a matter of being as responsible with your presence on social networks as you are with your personal presence," he said. "What do you want people to see and know about you?"
Bruce Mendelsohn, digital marketing, and social networking consultant recommended staying on LinkedIn, the professional networking site. If potential employers can not find you there, you may wonder what you are hiding, he said.

"Not being on social networks raises questions about your legitimacy, popularity and if you are updated," he said.

Also, consider why you want to disappear, said Robert Siciliano, chief executive of IDTheftSecurity.com. Are you a reserved person who does not want the world to know your personal information? Or do you feel threatened in any way?

How to delete your accounts

Sites like accountkiller.com, deseat.me, and justdelete.me connect you to pages where you can delete your profiles; Provide step-by-step instructions and helpful tips.

Mendelsohn suggested deciding between a "nuclear option" - blaming accounts altogether in the "Big Four": Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus - or a "limited debugging" to delete selected publications about you or that you have done.

Eliminated, but not forever

"When you delete a profile on a social network, it's important to check if the process removes your profile or simply disables it," said Henry Carter, a professor of computer science at Villanova University, via email.

Even when you close an account, some sites may retain your data and keep an "inactive" version of your profile in case you decide to return, he wrote.

You may be able to delete the content you created, but it will be impossible to prevent others from posting on you, said Allison Matherly, digital participation coordinator at Texas Tech University. "In the long run, eliminating one hundred percent of referrals about you on social networks is highly unlikely," he wrote in an email.

Do not forget other sites

Although Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram may be the most frequent sites online, do not overlook other platforms like dating sites, blogs, Flickr, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, PayPal and help forums.

"Many times we just think of the social networks we're currently using, when we've been online and used social networks or similar forms of two-way online communication much longer than we think," Matherly wrote.

What can you lose?

Disappearing from the web can mean the loss of any advertising presence you have established, Siciliano said. You may also be unable to reopen a deleted account with the same name or email address.

Disconnecting from social networks can be tantamount to losing contact with family and friends "in a time when letters and phone calls are not used so often," Matherly said.

"Many people find communities of other individuals similar to them, receive comfort and thrive from interacting with those people regularly," he added.

What can you win?

If you get rid of social networks you will have more time to do other things, said Mendelsohn. "It's the fear of not being aware of what's going on," he said. "You're going to take away a lot of anxiety."

John DeSanto, 65, of Warwick, New York, closed his Facebook account in January after having it for nearly six years. When he was on Facebook, he did everything possible to do things that he could publish so as to show off his friends; "I possibly created a personality that was not exactly me," he said in an email.

DeSanto said he removed his account because a relative was attacking his friends for political reasons. After leaving Facebook, he missed him for about two weeks, he said, but now it's as if he never existed.

The internet and social networks have given us platforms where "the silly ideas of everyone are flying in circles like mosquitoes that surround the digital campfire," he wrote. "So now, in the world of online commentary, it's all stupidity all the time." 

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