How to Delete Your Digital Path
So you're looking to delete your digital path? First off this is not going to be easy, as you can appreciate. You'll need to delete any and all traces of yourself from anywhere you've ever been. Can you honestly remember your entire history of using the web?
You can make some headway on the bigger social media sites, personal blogs, Flickr etc but for those sites out of your control, it will be a Herculean task. The following are far from exhaustive given the countless number of sites out there. The general process should be, more or less, the same though.
Ultimately a good start would be to stop adding traces in the first place. Try using other search engines that don't track your activity or a VPN.
If you really do want to delete your digital path, let's start with Facebook. If you are one of the estimated 2 billion users worldwide you might want to start with changing your privacy settings. To do this go to the privacy tab and change every setting to "private" or "not shared" or even "off".
You will find a special "privacy settings" shortcut in the blue bar near the top of the page.
You should also try and find any photos you're tagged in. These should appear on the left-hand side "Photo" tab. When you hover over any particular photo a little pencil or stylus icon should appear.
On the drop-down menu that appears, simply choose "Remove Tag". This will remove any reference to you in that particular photo. You should be met with a message box indicating that you won't be tagged in the post anymore.
Confirm your decision, rinse and repeat for the other legion of photos on Facebook. Good luck.
This one is pretty simple for those of you who want to delete your digital path. If you hold a Google Blogger account all you need to do is delete your profile. This will delete your blog posts and comments.
It'll be as if you never existed, well in that part of the internet anyway.
Tumblr, Wordpress, and Forums
Obviously, if you hold accounts in either of these it might be worthwhile closing your accounts.
It is now worthwhile conducting general searches for your name on a search engine. You can start by just typing your name and remember to put all parts of your name in speech marks.
This should work in all search engines to hunt for those words exactly. Open the links and contact the site to request if they will remove you from their particular post or article. You could cut out some effort and use JustDelete.me.
Sadly some sites may flat out refuse. This is especially the case for newspapers especially if you've appeared in the news.
You can contact the administrators for forums if you can't directly delete your comments. Again be sure to ask nicely and give a good reason why you want your comment or post removed. They tend to be pretty accommodating.
On Reddit, for example, all you need to do is find the comment in question. Click on the three dots that appear underneath it and select "delete". Kerching.
With Flickr and Facebook, you should also remove all photos you've ever uploaded. You can also search on Google Image and again put quote marks around your name.
Once again contact the page administrators and ask for their removal. Again be nice and polite. Rinse and repeat for anything you find and be ready to get refused quite a lot. This is especially the case for sites in the U.S.
Google search history
If you want to delete your digital path and stop being silently stalked by Google, you can take the "nuclear option" of deleting your Google Web search history.
This might be a bit of overkill though tbh. Why not just use a VPN or other search engine instead. Bing.com, DuckDuckGo.com or Blekko.com are good examples. Both are improving all the time and have seen big jumps in traffic in recent years.
Archives might scupper your labors
Anything that you've posted or created outside of Facebook, Flickr and Wordpress is likely to have been stored on the Internet Archive.
This annoying thing, or useful, depending on your point of view, crawls the internet regularly and stores or archives everything it finds. It does this on a continuous basis and forever. There is no explicit way to remove sites once they've been archived, that is rather the point of the whole thing. The index is colossal, as you can imagine.
You can make case-by-case requests for removal but given the sheer size of the thing be ready to wait a while for a response.
Despite all of your best efforts to remove explicit mentions of your name, it might not be enough. Determined searchers are likely to be able to dig up all sorts of things about you from leftover postings or refused requests for amendments.
Mentions of you from other users, photos etc even if you're not mentioned by name is likely to be found.
Beware of the Streisand Effect buddy
But wait, before you crack on with this be wary of the so-called Streisand Effect. This can have the complete opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve. It could actually highlight and spread the very things you are trying to suppress or destroy.
Barbara Streisand attempted to get some aerial photos of her Californian beach house removed from an online collection in 2003. She actually filed a lawsuit to achieve this. There was a massive backlash to her actions which led to them being more widely spread than they otherwise would have.
In the age of the internet, you may actually mark the article or post with a massive internet neon flashing sign during a blackout. Be careful with your words when requesting removal of any mention of your name.
The Final Word
Of course, if you want to delete your digital path, it will not be an easy task. We are not even sure anyone, ever, has succeeded, but then we wouldn't know, would we? If you really want to do this, it is going to take hundreds of hours to accomplish, and even then it might be a complete waste of time. There will also be fragmented echoes of you out there and for all time. And who said you wouldn't be remembered? If you have any other suggestions please feel free to share in the comments below.