Late 2015, Essena O’Neill announced that, despite having more than half a million followers on Instagram, 200,000 on YouTube and Tumblr, and 60,000 on Snapchat, she was quitting social media for good.
Image credit: www.theguardian.com
Her reasoning? The 18-year-old stated:
“Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement. I was consumed by it.”
It’s not exactly revolutionary to remark on how much social media has changed the way we communicate—or that shameless self promotion becoming less cool. After all, the tongue-in-cheek phrase #humblebrag was first entered into Urban Dictionary in 2011, and it was almost two years after CNET ran a story highlighting “Why teens are tiring of Facebook.”
So, what’s unique about the increasing number of voices currently moving away from constant updates, selfie images, and 140-character quips?
It comes down to the realization that staying constantly connected can have the opposite effect, often leaving you feeling estranged.
Some social media users check out after feeling as if a daily routine punctuated by post updates, tweets, emails, and notifications emanating from their smartphones has lost its glamor. Others, like O’Neill, have come to recognize that the instant affirmation and encouragement received after posting a perfectly crafted update has led to an unhealthy obsession.
My own decision to pare back involvement came after feeling like engaging in social media was akin to standing in a very crowded room in which everyone was talking to themselves in increasing volume.
No matter what, we’ve all gotten to the point where we feel like we may need to take a break.
How To Delete Your Social Media Accounts
Coming to this conclusion is one thing, but being able to hit the delete button is another story.
Social media outlets make money off of you, and your information. Facebook, for example, is beholden to shareholders to make money—and it makes a lot of it (north of $3.2 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2014 alone). It does so by selling, not just advertising that you have to see, but also selling you.
That’s right, Facebook is tracking everything you do on the service. If you "like" something, it knows, it shares, and it makes cash with that sharing of info.
Which is exactly why they don’t want to let you go.
From storing files to sending emails prompting you to reactivate your account, many social media platforms have made it extra-complicated to completely delete your information. To help you disengage, here’s a guide to getting rid of four of the most popular social media platforms, starting with:
Deleting Your Facebook Account
This can be frustrating, as Facebook has been around for long enough that many of its users have had accounts for over a decade. In that time, we’ve all likely posted a little too much personal information or a few regrettable photos.
Additionally, if you’ve ever deactivated your Facebook account, you may have noticed that everything goes back to normal the next time you log in—as if nothing has happened. That’s because deactivating your Facebook account is not the same as deleting it. When you deactivate your account, you are just hiding your information from searches and your Facebook friends. Although it’s not visible, your account information is still intact on Facebook’s servers, eagerly awaiting your return.
Deleting vs. Deactivating Facebook
Deactivating your account is as easy as going into your settings, clicking Security, and then Deactivate Your Account. But finding the delete option is harder.
The easiest way to delete your account is by clicking the lock icon in the top-right corner, and then the search icon, then typing “delete account.” This will bring you to the page where you delete your account. There’s more help here.
To delete your account, click on the lock icon in the top-right corner, then the search icon, then type “delete account.”
Once you fill out the form on this page, Facebook will permanently delete your account. However, they don’t do this until 14 days after you submit your request—in case you change your mind.
If you do decide to get rid of your Facebook account, you may want to download your account archive before you delete it. The information downloaded includes everything from the photos and statuses you post, to the ads you’ve clicked and IP addresses you’ve used. The list of what’s included is extensive, but you can view it in its entirety here. Also, due to the nature of this data, you’ll want to keep it in a safe place.
To download your account, go into Settings > General Account Settings > Download a copy of your Facebook data and then click “Start My Archive.” When your download is ready, Facebook will send you an email with a link to download. For added security, this link will expire after a few days, so it’s best to use it quickly before you lose resolve.
Deleting Your Twitter Account
Maintaining a properly manicured Twitter account can take a lot of time. The good news is that deleting one can be done in just a few minutes.
Do you have a history of tweets that you’re particularly proud of? Before you delete your Twitter account, you may want to download your archive. This will include all your tweets in chronological order, which is great if you want to relive your highlight reel in the future.
Twitter’s account settings page.
To download your archive, click your profile icon, then hit Settings, then “Request your archive.” It’ll take some time for Twitter to get your archive ready, but when it is, you’ll be sent an email with a download link that will give you a .zip file.
To delete your Twitter account, head to your account settings page and click "Deactivate my account" at the bottom. Your account gets deleted completely, but it will take a few weeks before results stop showing up in searches.
Deleting Your Google+ Account
Google+ is a bit tricky because it's tied to your entire Google account—including your Gmail.
If you want to go ahead and close everything including email, calendars, and whatever else, sign into your primary Google Account homepage, and choose "Close account and delete all services and info associated with it." This will get rid of everything from Gmail to Google Checkout.
If you only need to ditch the Google+ account, follow this link and select "Delete Google+ content." This will remove your profile from Google+, but retain any other Google services you have.
Google’s account homepage.
Deleting Your Instagram Account
Even though Instagram requires that you use a mobile phone to start an account, you can’t delete your account through the app. Instead, you’ll have to log into your Instagram account via the web to delete it.
Like Facebook, navigating through Instagram’s settings will only give you the option of temporarily disabling your account. If you want to get rid of your account for good, you’ll have to go to the Delete Your Account page. Once you do that, enter in your password and click “Permanently delete my account.”
Instagram’s Delete Your Account page.
There Are Pros & Cons To Deleting Social Media Accounts
As difficult as some social media platforms make it for you to delete your account, the real complication is in life after social media. For many age groups, social media messaging is now as normal a conduit for communication as email or telephone numbers.
If you’re still up in the air as to whether to delete, here are a few commonly listed pros and cons:
You’ll Experience Increased Productivity
Without the constant distraction of notifications from Tweets, Facebook notifications, and Tumblr notes, you’ll have more time to focus on other important projects or endeavors.
How much more time? Let’s consider that you probably check Facebook, alone, a few times a day. Assuming you don't fall down the rabid rabbit hole of reading status updates, clicking to see more, then updating your own, it might only be five minutes. If you do that every hour of an eight-hour workday, that's 40 minutes. In a five-day week, that's 3.33 hours. In a year, that's 7.2 full days. If you've been on Facebook since 2007, that's about seven entire weeks! Almost two months of your life gone—at minimum.
Regardless of whether you can even limit your browsing to 40 minutes a day, it’s a great feeling to be able to accomplish things when you can limit distractions from the outside world—and often, social media can be a big one.
You’ll Be Forced To Seek Out Face-To-Face Interactions
Another great aspect of not being active on social media is that it forces your to interact with friends and loved ones on a level beyond a computer or phone screen. There aren’t enough likes, comments or shares that can show someone that you care about them.
You’ll might even find that you can communicate more effectively. Most important, being physically present in someone’s life is immeasurable, and the emotional bond that you build with someone is far more significant than transient social approval.
However, You May Feel Out Of The Loop
One downside to no longer being active on social media is that you won't have immediate access to knowing what’s going on with friends, family, and other loved ones. This holds especially true for those who live far away—or those who’ve fallen from friend to acquaintance due to lack of regular contact.
You Might Even Miss Out On New Opportunities
Millions of people around the world use social media to connect with one another based on sharing common personal and professional interests.
Although opportunities to initiate networking opportunities in person still exist, there’s a wider net that’s cast out when social media is involved. You may find yourself developing connections that wouldn’t have formed without social media.
Final Considerations Before Closing Out
In our tech-entrenched modern world, it’s nearly impossible to disconnect from the internet completely. However, the trouble with the attention you get on the Internet is that it's both fickle and fleeting—once you get a little, you might find that you spend an unhealthy amount of time chasing more of it.
In fact, it’s only fair to note that O’Neill, herself, isn’t totally deleting her online presence. Instead, she’s started up the website letsbegamechangers.com, “aimed to inspire constant QUESTIONING, where there’s “no likes or views or followers … just my content as raw as I want.”
Before deleting your Facebook, Instagram, Google+, or Twitter, consider how frequently you use these platforms to keep in touch with those you value: Do you talk to one another on Facebook? Do you exchange e-mails? Do you call one another?
Consider how things would change if you were to delete your accounts. Investigate different possibilities; consider people's open-mindedness and availability. Would you still have access to the same individuals? Would your Twitter friends, for instance, be willing to communicate with you through other means? Would you still be granted access to key information in one another’s lives?
Finally, before you go through the trouble of deleting your accounts, consider whether or not you’ll want to come back later. It’s worth noting that taking a social media sabbatical can have the same effect, while still allowing you a handy place to keep in touch with friends once you’re ready again.