Set aside reality and think about Howard Sprague for a moment. Howard was the City Clerk for the town of Mayberry, North Carolina. Howard got fed up with an overbearing mother, a demanding job, and the stress of keeping track of a rural town with about 5,360 people. At least according to the sign posted at the railroad station.

Imagine a time when a job like that would stress you out.

After watching a documentary on television, Howard packs it all in and moves to a Caribbean island and takes up the life of beachcomber. Most people think he’s gone off his rocker, but some think he’s taking a brave step and hope it all works out for him. He quits his job as County Clerk and soon sets off. He finds a beachfront property and is soon lying in a hammock all day, enjoying the view and the beach. He also meets others who have taken up residence there but doesn’t exactly find a kindred spirit. He dreams of what he may be like in a few years’ time and in doing so, scares himself into going back to Mayberry.

Howard was stressed and in Season 8, Episode 15, which originally aired on December 28, 1967, he left it all behind and take off to an island in The Caribbean.

Sort of become an expat.

It was easy for Howard to unplug and disconnect. For expats today, who want to disappear from the Internet, it’s a little more challenging.

While no one is here to judge, here are a few tips to help you disappear online. Becoming an expat with your newfound knowledge is up to you.

Delete your social network accounts

Work your way through all of your social media profiles and on each, perform these five steps:

Go to the About Me (or settings) section

Click on the in the top right corner.

Select Manage My Account > Delete Account.

Press the Delete my account button.

Confirm that you wish to delete your account.

Remove unwanted search results

Find, and contact, the owner of the website. We often find the information at the bottom of the homepage.

If nothing is listed, use Whois. Copy that information and go to Google and search. You’ll often get the offending person’s email address, so contact them.

If they claim they can’t, or won’t help, the site’s hosting company can make an excellent ally.

Google also removes content for specific legal reasons, such as DMCA copyright violation reports and child sexual abuse imagery. To request a removal for a legal reason, use Google’s legal troubleshooter form. 

Get rid of background check, criminal, and public record results

Most people clear their criminal records so that they can pass background checks for employment, housing, universities, and loans, or to restore rights in order to vote or own a firearm.

Higbee & Associates offers a range of tools in helping to clear negative information.

Remove any usernames attached to an email address with your name

It’s easy to forget about old accounts you’ve signed up for, including everything from photo-hosting sites to apps for household budgeting.

But even if you stopped using a service years ago, experts say it’s important to find and delete it. Otherwise, the lingering data poses a risk to your digital privacy and security.

Consumer Reports can walk you through the process as simply as a walk through a field of daisies.

Stay off search engines without going offline by remaining anonymous

The Takeaway

With near-daily news about data breaches, hacks, and privacy problems, it’s not unreasonable to want to disappear from the internet. Maybe you’re sick of horribly embarrassing things showing up when potential employers Google your name. Or tired of everyone knowing you live in a garden level dungeon apartment? Or perhaps you just don’t like the fact that existing online makes you easy to find.

For mildly famous (or infamous) individuals, disappearing is essentially impossible, but for the rest of us, it’s surprisingly easy. It just depends on how much info is already out there.

Jerry Nelson is an American writer living the expat life in Argentina. You can find him at any of hundreds of sidewalk cafes and hire him through Fiverr, join the quarter-million who follow him on Twitter or contact him at jandrewnels[email protected]