The words "I wish I could quit you" take on a whole new meaning when you want out of a relationship with an online service. Sure, you once thought you and Facebook or MySpace would be together forever, but eventually terms of service change, end-user license agreements mature, and, well, you're just not in the same place anymore.
Sadly, not all Web sites and social networks are created equal when it comes to breaking up. With some, it takes only a couple of clicks to say good-bye. If you stop paying, that goes a long way toward ending it with a few sites. Others make you jump through more hoops than a tiger at the circus.
No matter what you call it—deleting, canceling, removing, whatever—when you want to be rid of an online account, you'll find most sites don't feel obliged to make it too easy for you. So we've cut to the chase as much as possible to give you the links, the tips, and in the worst cases, the fax and phone numbers you need to sever ties. Did we miss a service you want out of? Let us know. And if you've managed to quit a service not in this story, be kind and share your tips.
Another site linking up you and your alma mater–mates and another lawsuit: One user claims he was told by Classmates that several people were trying to contact him. He wasn't able to find out who—not until he paid. Then he discovered the actual truth: No one was trying to find him, at all. Rather than get mad, he got litigious.
Even if you don't feel scammed, you may feel annoyed—maybe you hated high school. And college. Canceling with Classmates is pretty simple—if you've got the free account. Those users can log in and remove themselves anytime. Visit the Member Support Email Contact form, pick a reason you're leaving, and click Yes. That's it.
If you've paid—base cost is $15 for three months—you've got a Gold Membership at Classmates.com, and that makes it a little more complicated. Contact the Member Support Team and someone will get back to you in e-mail or via live Internet chat. Classmates will dummy the account back down to free so you can do the removal. Another method is to set the account renewal option to "manual" so that it doesn't automatically debit your credit card; instead it automatically reverts to free when your Gold Membership runs out.
Can't get satisfaction online? Classmates.com can be reached at 425-917-5000. I tried it, hit 1 for customer support, then 2 for a question about the Web site, and got an operator after 4 minutes. She said she can cancel any account.
Recent issues with the Facebook terms of service—which would have given Facebook rights to everything you post there, for the remainder of time—had some users threatening to pull out. Which is probably why Facebook recanted on the changes and suddenly embraced democracy for its guidelines.
If you're still steamed, you have a couple of ways to leave FB behind. First is simple "deactivation." Visit your Facebook Account page and click the "deactivate" link at the bottom. Facebook will make an attempt to guilt-trip you into staying by pointing out just how many of your social-network friends won't be able to keep in touch. It even displays pictures of people you're in photos with, playing on your emotions with captions such as, "Mark will miss you" and "Wendy will miss you." Sure they will. Then how come they never poke me?
Once you've cleared the tears from your eyes, you'll notice another message on-screen, wherein the Facebook Team points out that you shouldn't deactivate because of that silly old terms of service change. That "was a mistake we have now corrected." Too much hullaballoo.
Soldier on. You have to provide a reason to deactivate, whether you'll be back or not, and you can also opt out of getting e-mails from Facebook while deactivated. That's the trick: Deactivation is not the same as deletion. Your account simply becomes invisible. Your friends on Facebook will all think you bailed. However, you have the option to reactivate it in the future, without losing any photos, notes, or pokes.
True deletion of a Facebook account means losing all of those—so be sure you have local copies of photos and notes before you take this step. You can't reactivate. Here's the link to the Delete My Account page.
Yes, Friendster still exists. If you were an early adopter of social networks, you may still have an account there doing nothing to get you new, real friends (like those you have on Facebook!). Time to cancel.
Assuming you can remember your log-in, do so and click Settings. Scroll down and find the Cancel My Account link. On a new page, you'll find the Cancellation Form in the middle. You need to provide your e-mail address, password, give a reason you're canceling, and check off the "Yes, I want to cancel my Friendster account" box. You can even list what new social network you've moved to, just to make Friendster feel bad. Refresh the window, and if you were logged in to Friendster before, you shouldn't be now. Say "so long" to any data you may have uploaded, assuming you can remember what it was.
It could be argued that LinkedIn is the most useful social network around, especially in this day and age of job networking. That doesn't mean you won't want to cancel with them. In fact, LinkedIn specifically suggests that if you have multiple accounts, you should close one to consolidate.
To close an account, log in, click Account & Settings at the top of the page, then click Close Your Account (under Personal Information). Give a reason you're leaving—most sites want to know what they can improve, or did wrong— and then click Continue.
You have time to reinstate your account, if you regret the deletion. Contact Customer Service and confirm your e-mail address to do so. LinkedIn doesn't give out a number, but the link to contact them is on the bottom of every page. I found the number anyway: 650-687-3600. When you ask for customer service, you'll probably get sent to a recording.
Canceling your MySpace account is easy—when it works. When it doesn't, things get a touch arcane.
Sign in, click the My Account link, then click Account, scroll down to the bottom, and click Cancel Account. Keep in mind, there is no reactivation. Go through with the cancellation and you can't bring back your account—though you can create a new account using the same e-mail address you used before. That's won't restore your previous music, pictures, and blog posts, however.
It should be that simple. But MySpace has some caveats. First, the account might remain visible for a while. Days, even a week, maybe. After that, if the MySpace page is still there, you may safely assume the deletion didn't go through. Now you need to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for assistance.
Send a "salute" to MySpace support in the e-mail. That's a "handwritten sign with the word MySpace.com and include your MySpace Friend/Profile ID number." Hold it up while having your picture taken. Attach the digital photo to the e-mail or at least send MySpace a link to where the picture can be found online. This salute may prove you're you, but that will matter only if you've got a picture on your MySpace page for the support team to compare it with.
MyLife.com (formerly Reunion.com)
MyLife.com wants to bring people from previous school classes together. Unfortunately, it tends to be aggressively annoying, with a constant barrage of e-mails once you sign up. The earlier incarnation, Reunion.com, was even the subject of a lawsuit under a California anti-spam law (the suit was dismissed).
If you're not part of the class action, here's how to get away from the constant claims of acquaintances trying to track you down. It's tricky to find even in the MyLife.com help documents, where at one point it says "delete account" but there's no actual entry with that term. It switches to "remove account" on the actual help article.
First, you do have the option to change your e-mail settings so that you get fewer or no messages from Reunion.com. But Reunion/MyLife also claims it "may take up to 10 days for changes to take effect." Why on earth should this remotely be the case? Supposedly because "some may have been prepared for delivery already." That only fuels the desire to delete the account. So here are the steps: Log in, click My Account on the top right, find the Delete Account link, and click OK to confirm. This can't be undone; you'll lose all mailbox data, profile info, and photos.
Expect to get e-mail messages for a couple of weeks. If the spams continue after that, call customer service at 888-704-1900, even on weekends. Hit 4 for questions about premium membership. Then 3 to make changes. You can cancel both free and premium accounts through this number. (full Story)