I created a Facebook Profile on May 2nd, 2007.

For years I thought the impetus for creating my first social media account was the ability to connect with one of the many incoming Junior High students at the school I attended where classes were small and students transient. But now, after discovering the exact date of my online presence’s genesis, May doesn’t quite line up with the start of the school year as I thought it would.

In fact, now 15 years on, the misremembering of dates is by far the least frightening surprise to be found on my Facebook profile. These days I find myself visiting Facebook much as one would watch an educational but bloody history film — with fleeting eyes, equally afraid of discovering some long-suppressed truth of my past as some algorithmically appointed fiction of somebody else’s. My timeline is a scrolling juxtaposition of decades-old junior high photos and ads for tomorrow’s hottest political candidate, neither of which I find particularly attractive.

On the one hand, I suppose my past is nothing to be ashamed of, even if my virtual self hasn’t always been as authentic as I would have liked. In many ways these tokens of my past reminded me of how far I had come, and cringey teenage posts helped me sympathize with the insecurities of teenagerdom faced by those around me now. On the other hand, the recent realization that these photos and status updates were readily available to any one of the 1,567 friends I’d accumulated over the years induced a paroxysm of paranoia. I said what about the 2008 presidential election? Why did I find it necessary to share a picture that had my address on it? and the ever worrisome: What if a potential employer sees this?

The fact that any of my Facebook friends had the ability to find the answer to these questions about me online (and so many more), was, simply put, not ideal.

Oh and, by the way, who were my friends? A church down the street from me seats 2,000 people and I tried to picture that building mostly full of my “friends.” How many of them would I even recognize, much less know their name? Perhaps it’s enough to have known each other briefly at one small moment time. Even still, giving somebody you had Social Studies with in 5th grade a silver key to the locked attic of your past feels gutsy. It doesn’t help that I can’t actually remember the last time I added a Facebook friend, and that nowadays Facebook skews gray, contributing to all of my friends being old, in both meanings of the word.

And so, Facebook, having become a sort of heterocostic hellscape bearing only a brief resemblance to the poking, status-updating, wall-posting, promise of its early days, I took the nuclear option and decided to unfriend everybody on Facebook save a few immediate family members.

Once decided, I wanted to take action immediately. Of course, Facebook doesn’t make this easy. I discovered that it takes 3 clicks to unfriend each person. Unfriending that many people was going to take me hours, and I wasn’t interested in going half way. So I put my programmer hat on and wrote a little hack that would automate the process for me.

One side affect of my hack was that I would watch each person’s name come up on the screen for a fraction of a second — just long enough to read — before that person would be unfriended. This felt like a SparkNotes of my past. As names surfaced, I remembered places I had been and people I had met that hadn’t crossed my mind in years or decades.

Curiously, I also felt a fair amount of anxiety. Watching friend after friend be excommunicated from my cyberspace sanctum, I realized that my collection of associations did tell a story of its own, aside from that told by my own posts and pokes. I didn’t post about Student Council summer camp, but I did meet Laura and Jake there, and watching their names come on the screen unlocked that week of memories in the high desert of Arizona. I didn’t post about being in the 5th-grade play, but I did meet Arturo and Bianca in those long nights of after-school rehearsals. In some strange way, I worried that I was losing a part of my own history by severing ties online with people I met 15 years ago and haven’t thought about in just as many.

I didn’t have much time to grieve. The process took all of about 30 minutes and I was left with a handful of family member friends and a need for a Diet Coke. The experience of going through my 1,500 friends at random rapid-fire gave closure to a dozen chapters of my life that I didn’t know I needed. I feel relieved. I no longer feel the burden of my Facebook past bearing down on me, nor the anxiety of keeping it hidden from others. Remembering that many memories, taking so many jumps in time over years and decades, left my brain scattered but my heart full and ready for a fresh start of sorts.

The other day I received a cold call from a former co-worker who just wanted to say hello. Perhaps I should take a page out of his book.