Cleaning Up Old Social Accounts

Posted by Steven Suwatanapongched on January 7, 2013

A week ago I deleted my Instagram and Path accounts.

Today I was able to delete an old Facebook account I created in 2006 when I was in graduate school. After graduating, I not only lost access to that email address, but also forgot the password and even the email address! It was one of those school accounts that auto generates an email address based on first letter of first name, followed by however many more characters of the last name. The formula: [firstname initial][first x characters of lastname]@students.depaul.edu.

So for me, it was always hard to remember since my last name has sixteen characters! I didn’t know where it stopped… ssuwata@students.depaul.edu? ssuwatan? ssuwatana? It’s doubly hard to remember since email is commonplace now. Back in the mid 90s, school email addresses might be many student’s first email address to be widely used.

The problem with forgetting the email address and password, is that these pieces of information are required if you want to delete your Facebook (FB) account. However, it seems a while ago FB implemented a vanity login/url for everyone. This old account was eventually migrated with the vanity url in plain view. It used the simple formula firstname.lastname in place of the email address for login.

I used that and guessed at the old password as was successful in logging into my old account! I then checked out all the friend requests that I was never able to respond to and went about to deactivate/delete my account. I am pleased I was able to delete this seven year old account that contained some of my information and wasn’t under my control.

But this does raise privacy and security issues.

  • What about others who forgot their email address/passwords, and/or even email addresses they no longer have access to (such as school emails)?
  • Should old social network accounts float out there forever, if the user can't get back into their account?
  • The auto migration to facebook vanity logins of the formula: firstname.lastname?

These are some nasty defaults from the university and Facebook. The university’s default got me into it, and Facebook’s default got me out.

The reason I cleaned up these social media accounts is not because I dislike the service or anything– but simply because I am no longer active on those accounts. I see no reason to keep them and my connections on them active if they’re virtually dead. Although this piece, Why I’m Quitting Instagram by Ryan Block is a fascinating read.

I also feel uncomfortable with having my data that is out of my control– at least having it seem that way.

A while ago I used TextAmerica for moblogging with pictures. This was before there was Instagram, Twitpic, yFrog, etc. This was even before iPhones and Android devices. But I eventually stopped using the service and they eventually went under. I wondered, what did they do with my data? I don’t recall being given any notice that they were disappearing. Thankfully, they did end up deleting old free account data.

So, when it comes to unused accounts with my personal data, I rather take a pro-active approach to deleting my accounts. One of the things I look for when I sign up for any new service, free or pay, is how easy is it for me to walk out– to remove/delete the account.

How awful would it be if in the real world, you can walk into a store, but then don’t know how to navigate your way out?

For example– Ikea. I love their products. They’re affordable, decently made, and most of all– I don’t feel bad if I have to throw them out or give them away once I no longer need the table, shelf, or whatever. However, I can’t stand the layout of the place. If you’ve ever been to an Ikea, the place is built like a maze with sections and little shortcuts everywhere. I always have to make long walks to find the few things I want to get. I do end up staying longer than I want to, but so does everyone else– causing lines and shortage of staff to go around! I seem to have a love/hate relationship with Ikea.

Anyway, I do feel cleaner.