Social Exposure & Digital Housekeeping

Why is it such a pain to remove old URLs?

When it comes to leaving a social media platform, some websites make it incredibly difficult to actually delete your account. When leaving Facebook, it’s purposely awkward procedures would only allow me to initially “deactivate” my profile first, and would not permanently scrub me from their databanks until 90 days of inactivity had passed.

So I was pleasantly surprised at the relative ease of erasing my Instagram account by comparison.

Yes, I’ve done it. A couple of days after requesting my export link, the email dropped in my inbox. Once I’d safely downloaded all of my images, the deletion process was very straightforward. A couple of clicks, another to re-confirm my intentions despite a desperate plea bargain to stay, and I was gone for good. Ahh…

In fact, it felt so good I decided to keep going and deleted both my Pinterest account and a dusty old Behance profile. I believe there is something to be said about reigning in your online presence and preventing it from becoming overexposed & oversaturated. I also believe in digital housekeeping. Too much of the world wide web is already a mass graveyard of stagnant, disused domains, cobwebbed portfolios and user profiles devoid of life.

So why is it such a pain to remove all traces of these deceased accounts from Google?!

Over the past several days, I have submitted numerous expired URLs for my old user profiles on a number of websites to Google’s Outdated Content Removal tool. It usually takes about 24hrs for the addresses to be omitted from search results. Yet low and behold, a refresh of the search uncovers a whole slew of equally old URLs from subpages or even the same ones but in alternative languages. Why can’t the full content be deleted under a single parent URL submission? It’s ridiculous, to say the least. Yes ok, once Google eventually does a re-crawl of these decayed pages it will realise they no longer exist. But until then I get to play this silly little game.

What did alarm me, and perhaps this just shows my naivety, are the number of 3rd party websites that curate your Instagram and Twitter profiles without your consent. (Toopics, Pintaram, Twipu, Jolygram, the list goes on.) Public really does mean public. During my attempts to purge retired accounts, a host of these sites would regularly appear that had logged all of my images, tweets and posted media. At least now that I’ve deleted Instagram, they simply say “This profile is private” or “This link is broken or has been removed”. I can’t even submit these URLs to be taken down, as technically they are still live, and were not created by myself.

I wonder how many people who use social platforms know these sites exist, and if they did would it change what information they publicly shared.