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Going Unsocial: How to Disconnect from Social Networking

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Suffering from social media overload? Looking for ways to remove yourself from your social networking grind? When social networking becomes too much, it’s time to consider disconnecting from the grid. It’s not that easy to do, however; Facebook and its ilk have their hooks deep into your online persona, not just on their own sites but on many other interconnected sites. In this article, Facebook for Grown-Ups author Michael Miller shows you how to disconnect from Facebook and other social networks — and discusses what to expect when you’re no longer sharing online.
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Social networking is a lot of work. You may find that it’s simply not worth the effort; your time might be better spent doing offline stuff instead of constantly posting and checking your news feed on Facebook and other social media.

When social networking becomes too much, it’s time to consider disconnecting from the grid. It’s not that easy to do, however; Facebook and its ilk have their hooks deep into your online persona, not just on their own sites but on many other interconnected sites.

Disconnecting, then, means tracing your social networking footprint through whatever sites and services it touches, and ever so firmly removing all traces of your participation. Here’s how to do it.

Disconnecting from Facebook

Let’s start with the Internet’s most popular social network, and also the most ubiquitous, Facebook. It’s tough for most folks to leave Facebook, given how much of your life you’ve probably shared with your Facebook friends; most people not only have tons of status updates registered, but also a fair number of photos and videos shared on the site.

Making matters worse, Facebook doesn’t make it easy for you to leave – literally. Put simply, Facebook does a pretty good job of hiding what you need to use to permanently erase your presence from the Facebook site.

The first issue is one of nomenclature, as Facebook gives you options for leaving the fold. You can deactivate your account, which temporarily hides your account information from others, or you can delete your account, which permanently removes your account information. Both have their pros and cons.

Deactivating your account is meant as a temporary solution. That is, it’s something that can be undone. When you deactivate your account, Facebook doesn’t actually delete your account information, it merely hides it so others can view it. Since you’re not really gone, you can easily reactivate your account at any time and recover all the stuff you’ve previously shared.

To deactivate your account, log onto Facebook, click the Account button at the top of any page, and select Account Settings. On the Account Settings page, select the Security tab and click the Deactivate Your Account link. At this point Facebook tugs at your heartstrings by showing you pictures of some of your Facebook friends, with the messages “Bob will miss you,” “Dinah will miss you,” and so forth. Resist the urge to change your mind, scroll to the Reason for Leaving section, and select just why it is you’re leaving. You’ll also need to leave any Facebook Groups you belong to; you may also want to check the Opt Out of Receiving Future Emails from Facebook option so you aren’t hounded to reactivate in the future. Click the Confirm button and Facebook will now hide your account from other Facebook users.

If you want a less reversible option, you can permanently delete your Facebook account. This is more difficult to do, for the simple reason that your Facebook account is likely connected to lots of other websites. To erase your presence from the Facebook site, you’ll also need to sever all these external connections to your Facebook account. But once you do that, you can leave Facebook free and clear – without fear of being sucked back into the network in the future.

Don’t have any connections between Facebook and other sites? Think again. Any site you’ve visited that has prompted you to log in with your Facebook information, any site where you’ve shared something to your Facebook profile, or any site that you’ve “liked” to Facebook, is connected to your Facebook account. These are official called Facebook Connect sites, and Facebook has done a good job encouraging the participation of thousands of other sites in this extended social network.

What you need to do is visit each of your personal Facebook Connect sites – especially those where you’ve been logging in with your Facebook account – and establish a different login method. Once you delete your Facebook account, you’ll no longer be able to log into these sites with your old Facebook account, so you want to make sure you can get in afterwards. Practically, this probably means logging in with your Facebook account, and then, once you’re in the site, changing your login information to something different.

This is also important because you can still log into these connected sites with your Facebook account info for two weeks after you’ve deleted your Facebook account. In spite of what you might think, this is not a good thing; if you log into a Facebook Connect website, you’ll actually undelete your newly deleted account, and have to start over with the deletion process. Better to do your homework ahead of time.

Once you’ve disconnected from all connected sites, you can formally delete your Facebook account. Log into Facebook and then go to http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account. You’ll have to enter this URL directly into your web browser; there’s no link (that I’ve been able to find, anyway) to this page from within Facebook. When you see the Delete My Account page, click the Submit button. You now see the Permanently Delete Account dialog box; enter your Facebook password and the CAPTCHA characters in the Security Check box. Click the Okay button and Facebook deletes your account – as long as you don’t log back into Facebook for the next 14 days. Any interaction with your Facebook account during this 14-day period will reactivate your account.

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