De-cluttering the Internet

The title is a little unclear. There were better options, but I’m not doing you or me any favours unless I confuse you sufficiently to make you intrigued enough to read the rest of what I have to say for the day. If you’re here now, welcome: I’m happy to have you. Please read through till the end for a delightful surprise. Where, you know what you’ll find? Thanks to infinity scroll, another post of mine. Delightful, I know.

I spent the better part of late evening yesterday and today morning decluttering my life on the internet. I’m not entirely sure what prompted this decision. I feel like I got to this deep desire to clean up my internet footprint because of a desire to procrastinate some work I had – and yes, unlike previous occasions, where I’ve slipped into calling everything I do “work”, I’m talking about actual work this time – with deadlines and a deliverable. Imagine. I had completed all my usual procrastination techniques, ended up on a weird place on YouTube, which is when I decided to take this step. It took my about 5 hours, and I’ve ended up in a place where I now have a clear idea of how better I can declutter. So of course, you get to read all about it.

I have 3 active user profiles that enable me to login to web services. 2 of these are hosted on Gmail – and I’ve been using Gmail since 2006-ish, when you had this amazing counter that showed you how much storage Google would offer you if you signed up – every time you moved to the login page. At the end of my YouTube binge, I felt the need to organize my e-mail inbox better: put labels on everything, make things easier to navigate. So I started doing that, and about half an hour into it, I realized it served no purpose for me. I pretty much knew most e-mail IDs I regularly e-mailed. I usually mark things that need a response from me as “unread”, and I keep a journal to remember whom to respond to – it’s very rare that I miss e-mails as a result. So after 30 minutes of painstakingly figuring out how to label things, and what sort of labels I envisioned in my ideal inbox, I ditched that idea altogether – deleting every single label I had created, including some automated ones.

Then, I realized I used a few services on the internet where I had duplicate profiles. This disturbed me. I don’t like having two profiles. I’m a straightforward person on the internet, and I’d rather have everything that’s public about me attributable directly to me – rather than through some web of discovery and trail searching people have to push themselves to go through. Most of these duplicate profiles were created through legitimate accident. How, you ask? Simple.

Like I said earlier, I have two Gmail accounts, right? Well, one was my first Gmail account – and my daily usage e-mail ID till I finished up Grade 12, at which point the alternate e-mail ID was my spam box (I signed up for subscriptions & things with it), and post Grade 12, because I needed to look more professional (my old e-mail ID, as you may be able to tell, was not), I switched them around. The old alternate ID became my primary ID, and the default moved over to my secondary. That ended up in a couple of changes and at that time, I reconfigured mails to move around accordingly. Everything was peaceful.

Except, then this thing called Gmail integration came along and erupted around 2013-14. The problem with Gmail integration is that it is super convenient and easy. You don’t have to keep creating multiple accounts & remember multiple passwords. All you need to do is remember your Gmail password, and you can pretty much sign-in to every service imaginable on the internet today. So why is this a problem? Well, for people like me – who are signed in to two e-mail IDs, sometimes we make the mistake of accessing the service with the wrong Gmail ID. That leads to the creation of a duplicate profile. This happened on multiple applications.

So what I did yesterday was I reversed that process. First, I figured out all the applications to which I had given access to my Gmail. Then I logged in to each of those services and deleted my user profile. And finally, I revoked Gmail’s access to these applications. Several of them are applications I don’t use anymore, or will never use in the near future, so it’s a good thing they don’t have my data. 

Similar things had to be done with WordPress as well. Massive kudos to them though, their Happiness Engineers basically helped me migrate an entire website, content, and a domain to my alt (but default) profile in a jiffy.

Then, the closure of the entire Gmail process was to delete an e-mail account I had created exclusively for the purpose of backups, given that my 15GB storage on my primary account had expired. Given that I purchased Google One this year, I no longer needed it. So I migrated all the data and shut that off too.

The result: a decluttered internet footprint. Something still in progress. I’m sure I have accounts I don’t remember creating and data I don’t remember sharing (but have consented to), but it’s time to live a leaner life here. Keep fewer passwords to remember, not give random applications access to my e-mails. Just be a little more aware of what I’m giving up & for how much convenience I’m trading off my information for.

One day I’ll figure it out.