* "Only connect. . ." E.M. Forster, Howard's End

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to unplug from Facebook, Twitter and Google+

The three popular social networking sites each offer ways to tune out or turn off accounts. Facebook and Twitter users can opt to take a break or deactivate. Google+ users can hide, downgrade or delete accounts.

Tired of being friended and poked on Facebook? Just not that into your followers on Twitter? Google+ making you feel less than totally happy? Here's how to unplug from three popular social networking sites.


It's the most popular social networking site on the Web with more than 750 million users. There are three ways to tune out or turn off Facebook.

•Take a break

If there's a chance you might make up with Facebook, this is a good temporary option. Turn off email notifications, remove the Facebook app from your phone, take the website out of your bookmarks and generally cleanse your online existence of all unwanted reminders of Facebook.

How to do it: Go to "account settings" under the account menu. Select the "notifications" tab and remove the check next to the alerts you don't want to receive. The downside: Your friends may still tag you in photos, write on your wall or send you messages and, when you don't respond, may think you lack basic social skills.


If you are not sure you want to quit Facebook forever, you can deactivate your account. You will disappear on Facebook immediately. People will not be able to search for you or view any of your information. But Facebook will save all of your wall posts, photos, messages and other personal information in case you have a change of heart.

How to do it: Go to "account settings" and select the "security" tab. The last option at the bottom of the page is "deactivate your account." Click on the link. Be forewarned: Like a jilted lover practiced in the art of emotional blackmail, Facebook will try to talk you out of leaving by showing you pictures of close friends who will miss you. To reactivate your account: Log in with your email address and password.


If you want to scrub every last detail of your existence from Facebook, you can permanently delete your account.

How to do it: Unlike deactivating, deleting is not an option under account settings. Instead, click on "Help Center" from the account menu. Type "delete" into the search box. Select the option: "How do I permanently delete my account?" Scroll down to "submit your request here." Or you can type in this link: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=delete_account.

Click on the link and you will get a message asking you to verify that you want to delete your account. Click the "submit" button. Facebook will ask for your password and will perform a security check. Facebook will not delete your account for 14 days. During that time, it will email you to verify that you are the one deleting the account, not an impersonator trying to wreak havoc on your social life.

After 14 days, all of your information will be permanently removed from Facebook. Some of your
information will remain on Facebook's backup servers for as long as 90 days but will not be available to Facebook users and will not be personally identifiable. If you log into your Facebook account or log into another website using your Facebook account during the 14-day grace period, you will be asked to confirm or cancel your request to delete your account.

Insider tip: You may want to ditch Facebook, but maybe not all of your personal information. Before deleting your Facebook account, you can download your profile, wall posts, messages and more from Facebook. From "account settings," click on "download a copy of your Facebook data."


Twitter has as many as 400 million monthly users who send out 200 million tweets a day. There are two ways to quit.

•Take a break

Not quite ready to bid farewell to all your followers? Follow the same instructions as for Facebook. Turn off email notifications (consider leaving on direct messages if you hear from anyone important that way), blot out all those pesky reminders of Twitter on your computer and phone, and take a timeout from scanning and sending 140-character messages.

How to do it: Click "settings" from the top right of your Twitter account. Click on "notifications." Uncheck the boxes for the notifications you do not want to receive and click save.


The only other option is to permanently remove your profile and information from Twitter. Note that this process takes 30 days. After 30 days, there is no way to restore your account.

How to do it: Click "settings" from the menu. Click "deactivate my account" at the bottom of the page. Enter your password. Verify that you want to deactivate.

Insider tip: If you want to use your email address to create another account during those 30 days, take these steps before deactivating your account. Go to "settings." In the user name field, choose a new user name. In the email address field, change your email address to a new address. Confirm the new email address via a link Twitter sends to you. Then deactivate. This way your email address and user name will be available to create a new account during the 30-day deactivation period. If you change your mind during those 30 days, you can request that your account be restored at https://support.twitter.com/forms/general.


It's still invitation only, but already more than 25 million people are test-driving Google's new social networking service. If you have given Google+ a spin but have had enough, you have three options.


You can hide everything but your name and photo from public view without deleting or losing access to your stuff. But remember, that means people you have shared stuff with in the past will still have access to it.

How to do it: Go to your profile page. Click the "edit profile" button on the top right. Then click each field of the profile and adjust the setting from being visible to "anyone on the Web" to "only you" (or to very small circles).


Downgrading your Google+ account will still give you access to Gmail and other Google products. But your Google+ posts, circles and other content will disappear immediately.

How to do it: Go to the "settings" menu and click on "account overview." Under "services" you will find the option: "Delete profile and remove associated social features."


Deleting your account is about as radical as you can get. Not only will you lose access to Google+, but you will also lose access to all Google products including your Gmail email address.

How to do it: Go to the "settings" menu and click on "account overview." Under "services" you will find the option: "Close account and delete all services and information associated with it."

Insider tip: Google offers "data liberation," meaning you can save your photos, profile information, contacts, circles, stream posts and Buzz posts on your computer in "zip" files. You can access that service at http://www.google.com/takeout/. It does not include Gmail. Instructions for getting your data out of Gmail can be found at http://dataliberation.blogspot.com/2009/09/liberate-your-gmail-with-imap-and.html.

Jessica Guynn LA Times August7, 2011

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