Online suicide is painless

It’s fitting that the creators of free Web app Web 2.0 suicide machine are from the Netherlands. Why? The Netherlands is known for its windmills, among other things, and the phrase “tilting at windmills” from Don Quixote refers to the pursuits of battling imaginary enemies and chasing an impossible dream. And that gets to the heart of what this app is about: It automatically and permanently scrapes your private content, friends, and connections from your social networks in defense of an enemy the founders believe is real, during a process that is far from impossible.

The tangible enemies are the networks themselves that can retain bits of your personal data forever. The intangible enemy is the ability of social networking to disconnect us from real life — hardly a new concern, but one the founders express in urgent tones: “Users are entrapped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world. We do have a healthy amount of paranoia to think that everyone should have the right to quit her 2.0-ified life by the help of automatized machines.” An amusing but effective video drives their point home.

The way the suicide machine words is fiendishly simple. Decide which social network — Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, or Twitter – you want the app to gut (the accounts themselves are not deleted), give the app that account’s user name and password, and a Flash video pops up enabling you to watch a Moddr script methodically delete tweets and posts, untether connections, and eradicate your account data. The app makers itemize each action so you know precisely what’s happening. As of this writing Facebook was trying to throw up legal and technical roadblocks to stop the app, but the founders have found a workaround, at least on the technical side.

In a post about this app, blogger Lisa Hoover poses a helpful question: “Are you so over social networking that you’re ready to disappear yourself, or do you want to stick around and enjoy the party a little longer?” Only you can answer that, of course. Once the app does its thing, the only data the suicide machine site retains  is “your profile picture, your name and your last words,” which could easily be “I shall return” if you’d like to come back to your abandoned network again someday — perhaps as someone else.

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