Social media users are often warned to be discreet about what they share online these days. You don’t want inappropriate photos or messages to get in the way of a college or job offer.
So if you have old profiles left over from rarely used platforms like MySpace, you might want to delete your account.
But as Taylor Quimby of Here & Now contributor station New Hampshire Public Radio found out, removing your online past is not always so straightforward.
- Taylor Quimby, producer for the New Hampshire Public Radio show “Word of Mouth.” He tweets @TaylorQuimby1.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
Fans of social media know there's sort of a social media Darwinism. There's always a new platform for sharing, connecting with others. As AOL made way for Gmail, MySpace made way for Facebook. But what happens to the old profiles you leave behind? Taylor Quimby of HERE AND NOW contributing station NHPR decide to take a look.
TAYLOR QUIMBY, BYLINE: MySpace. One could say it's the velvet leisure suit of social media.
Do you have a MySpace account?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: MySpace? Yes, I actually do.
QUIMBY: Do you use it on a regular basis?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I haven't touched it in years, to be honest.
QUIMBY: But it's probably still there.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes.
QUIMBY: It's pretty normal to look back at old outfits and wonder, oh, what was I thinking? History hasn't been kind to hammer pants or the fanny pack. And like the leisure suit, MySpace has suffered the same sort of fate. It's become a punch line.
Do you know anybody that has a MySpace?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yeah. My dad has a MySpace.
QUIMBY: But lest we forget, we're not talking about a trend from 15 or 20 years ago. In fact, it wasn't until 2008 that Facebook users first outnumbered fans of MySpace - less than six years ago. MySpace was the hottest social media platform since Friendster. Remember Friendster? And even today, MySpace claims to have some 36 million users. But who are they? Do you have one? Did you ever have one? And when you decided to move on, did you delete your account?
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
ZACH NUGENT: All right. Let's see if we could find Taylor's MySpace.
MAUREEN MCMURRAY: Taylor...
QUIMBY: That's producer Zach Nugent and my boss Maureen McMurray.
QUIMBY: So if you haven't already guessed, there's a reason I'm the one telling this story.
MCMURRAY: OK. Here it is. Oh, my...
NUGENT: It's Taylor?
QUIMBY: Yup. Don't...
NUGENT: Oh, my God. What is going on here? What's this - is that Taylor?
QUIMBY: Around 2006 and 2007, I was really into MySpace. And then, like many others, I abandoned it. I didn't delete my account. I just kind of drifted away. And since nobody I knew used it anymore, I sort of thought MySpace would just drift away too. But in 2012 and 2013, MySpace redesigned the site to focus on the one demographic still using it: musicians.
They ditched the classic MySpace look. And all the blog posts, messages, the likes and dislikes we agonized over, it all got sent to the digital trash bin. All of it, except for one thing: the photos. Which means if you haven't deleted your account, its ghost is still there and your leftover MySpace photos are up for the whole world to see.
MCMURRAY: Taylor, did you ever have a shaved head?
NUGENT: Shaved head with a ping-pong balls as eyes?
QUIMBY: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
MCMURRAY: That's you?
NUGENT: Brushing your teeth?
QUIMBY: In the MySpace days, I looked a lot different.
MCMURRAY: And there is one of him...
NUGENT: He's like the Joker?
MCMURRAY: Did you have blood on your face?
QUIMBY: Frankly, I didn't use a lot of discretion when posting pictures.
NUGENT: Do we want to just describe this photo?
MCMURRAY: He's pantsless and he has an axe.
NUGENT: He's in a Speedo. He's in a straight-up Speedo.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
QUIMBY: My MySpace page was an extension of my musical alter ego at the time, an experimental project I called Milky Pink.
NUGENT: Like, this looks like you're part of some cult.
QUIMBY: It was pretty weird.
NUGENT: I don't know if you can read the caption underneath, but it says Milky Pink: Murder Capital of the World.
QUIMBY: That was - OK. So the explanation here is that that was the cover art for my first album as Milky Pink.
MCMURRAY: That's it?
MCMURRAY: And that's you?
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
QUIMBY: Now none of this stuff is so bad it would ever get me fired, I think. But should I ever be looking for a new job, it's within the realm of possibility that an employer might see it. And the fact that it's just sitting out there for anybody with an Internet connection to see makes me pretty uncomfortable. And work aside, I'm a dad now. I don't plan on hiding my past from my son, but I would like to be able to control how it's presented. So here it is, the point of this whole story: How to delete your MySpace profile.
Step one: If you know the email and password to your old account, then congratulations. This is going to be a snap. All you have to do is log back in, go to your settings and select delete account. If like me, though, you don't have a clue what your email address was when you signed up for MySpace, or you signed up with a college email that's since been deactivated, then it's a little more complicated. Before you can delete an account, you've got to prove that it's yours to delete. You need to sign the MySpace Declaration of Ownership.
It's pretty easy to find once you know what you're looking for. But there is one tricky part. It requires that you attach a digital copy of a government-issued ID. Seriously. Once you've got that done, you can pretty much just fill it out and press send.
All right. I'm doing it guys.
QUIMBY: Oh, wait. (Unintelligible) What didn't I fill out here?
The form is going to ask you for all the information we have already established you do not have access to. So you've got to find a workaround like I did.
OK. Maybe if I just fill out don't know for all those fields.
QUIMBY: Yeah. Hold on.
OK. Now you can press send. And from there, you're just waiting. For me, it wasn't very long. I actually got an email from MySpace the very next day.
QUIMBY: Yeah. I know. Let's see what it says. Thank you for filling out the deletion form. I've scheduled the profile in question for removal. So I guess that was it. Please allow up to 72 hours. Dexter.
MCMURRAY: It says, sincerely, Dexter.
NUGENT: MySpace: more efficient than we thought.
QUIMBY: My guess, Zach, is that like 90 percent of the staff is dedicated to deleting people's accounts at this point.
QUIMBY: As it turns out, deleting your profile may not be the eye-rolling ordeal you'd imagine. And depending on what you find still there if you happen to Google yourself, it could be a tremendous relief. So if you never deleted your old account, it might be time to do a little digital housekeeping. After all, there's really no such thing as my space or your space when it comes to the Internet. It's everybody's space, for better and for worse. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Taylor Quimby.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
Now I feel like I have to go and delete some accounts that I didn't even know were still there.
YOUNG: I'm doing it right now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.