What it’s like to have everything you’ve ever written deleted and the digital version of your life erased permanently
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Each of us occupies our own little corner of the internet. Over more than six years, my corner of the internet was LinkedIn.
Recently, I was banned for life and all my blog posts were permanently deleted and never to be recovered — in case you’re wondering, there is no option to back up my work or take a screenshot of my LinkedIn articles.
Thousands of heartfelt blog posts designed to inspire people have left cyberspace and can never be retrieved. It feels like having your family history wiped out.
If you read my LinkedIn posts in 2016, you could see the remnants of a man who faced epic challenges of the mind and fought back. If you read my LinkedIn posts back in 2017, you could see the pain of several breakups and a normal dude with Dumbo-sized ears trying to make sense of the heartbreak. In 2018, you could see what it was like to change careers and face an overwhelming pile of rejection emails. In 2019, you could see the person that was fired from their job and had no idea what to do — that person was deathly afraid.
Each blog post was linked to a phase of my life designed to be helpful to others. All of that is gone. Other than the photos on my phone, the last six years of my life have been erased forever and can never be retrieved. It’s an idea you never think you’ll have to grapple with until it happens — and it can happen to anyone and is happening more and more.
So I’m left facing the reality of my situation. It’s one where I can feel sorry for myself or try and find an empowering meaning in it all. I choose the latter.
Here’s what it’s like to have the digital version of your life erased forever.
People Forget Quickly
You might think people will remember this day for the rest of your life. They won’t. Within a few days, just like a computer game, new users were spawned in place of my rotting carcass of a LinkedIn profile.
You think your digital legacy will last a lifetime. I’ve learned it doesn’t. It’s the real-world relationships you will remember that count. It’s the coffee you had with people you met online or the love of your life that you met through a dating app.
When your digital profile is extinct, all that is left is the real world and whatever you remembered to keep before your time has come to face digital exile.
People won’t remember in a week when your social media profile is erased. That might be a good thing depending on how you look at it.
There’s Real Help and Fake Help
The fake help starts with the thought, “how do I turn this person’s loss into a story to get likes?”
On social media, someone else’s loss is an opportunity to post a story to get likes and capitalize on that person’s misfortune. Most of the help I received was genuine when my digital profile became extinct. People really wanted to help and it was stunningly beautiful.
The fake help disguised as trying to benefit off my loss was ignored.
Don’t Tie Your Self-Worth to Your LinkedIn Network
This is one decision I made that served me. I never let my LinkedIn profile and its perceived success become part of my self-worth. I told myself, “you’re enough without it all.”
A couple of people I know also had their social media profiles deleted. They weren’t so lucky and became extremely ill because of it.
Seeing them go through their digital execution beforehand helped me when it was my turn and I bent over to have my head chopped off.
Most People Won’t Miss You
There is one thing I know for sure: people won’t miss me on LinkedIn. They will forget quickly and get on with their lives, and I’m okay with that.
You might think the world is hanging off every word you write, but that’s most likely a lie made up by your ego. Whether you write inspiring stories or post beautiful photography on Instagram, you too can be forgotten.
Fame and notoriety are overrated anyway. Just ask Tim Ferriss, who once said to his friend as a twenty-eight-year-old:
“If I’m not famous by 30, I might as well put a bullet in my head.”
Fame is pointless, so don’t worry about people missing you if your social media profile gets deleted forever.
You’re Not That Important
Social media can give you a false sense of what is real. You can think that when you get thousands of comments on a post, you’re god. I’ve learned the hard way: I’m not god.
The lure of social media is to build up your own importance, but that idea is a trap. You don’t need to be more important. You just need to be important to the people you care about.
My girlfriend and family love me, and that matters far more than what a social media network junked up on dopamine-inducing engagement metrics think about my place in society.
It’s not so bad being back at the bottom again with no audience and nothing but peace and quiet.
Be Careful Using Someone Else’s Platform
A friend asked me if I was going to start another LinkedIn account. He said, “You can build up an audience again quickly and find the same readers.”
That’s a good point. But why would I invest my time working for free and helping a social media company build its business? It doesn’t make sense. I just start again and hope that there are no problems?
One of the key lessons of losing my LinkedIn profile is to never rely on someone else’s platform ever again.
Your digital footprint on social media is not owned by you and the sooner you realize that the quicker you can start building your thing, not a tech company’s business.
After the First 24 Hours, You’re on Your Own
I quickly learned who my friends were when all of this happened.
In the first 24 hours, everybody wants to help. After that, only your real friends are left. You realize quickly who was genuine and who just wanted access to your audience and some nonsense perception of coolness (I’m the least cool person on the internet and proud of it).
I’ve learned to live on my own and that has been the saving grace when the dust settled and the reality of all my work being gone sets in.
My Network Has Gone From 1000s to About 50
Yep, I no longer can contact a lot of people I have had interactions with.
All that is left is the phone numbers on my phone. Everybody else is a distant LinkedIn connection that I can’t revive or talk to anymore, and I will be unlikely to remember most of them in a few weeks due to my poor memory — this is life.
Life comes in seasons. People enter our life and they exit through the stage door on the right called death or the alternate door on the left called choice. You can’t hoard contacts forever, even though I have tried. They are gone. Free. Hopefully, left just a tiny bit better from having read one of my articles all those years ago.
Some of us will meet again. For others, this is it between now and death.
It’s been an awesome ride. The last six years have shaped my life for the better, even if I no longer have the written articles to prove it.
You Will Never Be the Same Again
What I do know after having six years of writing deleted overnight is that I’ll never be the same again. My life is forever changed.
The whole point of writing for six years straight is not about me at all. It’s about so much more than that.
Writing for six years is about daring to dream, using your creativity, finding a way to be helpful, and carving out your own corner of the internet for as long as it will be rented to you, and for anyone who’d like to take a seat and listen to what you’ve got to say.
Nothing is forever. That’s what having six years of writing deleted overnight and gone forever can teach you.
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