• Image about Facebook

IF THE MOST REWARDING HOURS OF your day are the ones spent perusing friends’ status updates and photos on Facebook, stop reading now. If you luxuriate in the pithy nuggets about LeBron James and the criticism of Glee casting decisions that trickle in from your Twitter feed, this is not a story for you. Really. There are many other fine pieces of journalism in this issue of American Way. Don’t waste your time with this one.

But if the relentless tide of information delivered via these and other social-media platforms has worn you down, then you just might want to steer your browser toward the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine at SuicideMachine.org. If you want to exterminate your social-media presence in a way that’s fast, crushingly final and oddly cinematic, there’s no better way to do it.

“We thought there might be a chance that people were getting fed up with maintaining all these virtual friendships,” explains Gordan Savicic, identified on the Machine site as Chief Euthanasia Officer. “So we developed a machine that un-friends you automatically.” In addition to Facebook annihilation, the device offers pain-free exits from Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn.

The brainchild of Savicic and Walter Langelaar, who met in art school in the Netherlands, the Machine is deceptively simple looking, featuring the light hues and rounded corners of many a Web application. Beneath the surface, however, lies a cortex-melting piece of programming wizardry.

For would-be social-media dropouts, the Machine’s genius is its simplicity. Here’s how it works: The user selects the network he wishes to depart and then enters his name and password. From there, the Machine takes over, streaming its own desktop onto the user’s screen. A Web browser pops up and name/password information is automatically entered, then friends/contacts/tweets start vaporizing one by one.

“You see your online life passing away,” Savicic explains. “You can sit back on the couch and watch.” Indeed, you might have to: For a Facebook fanatic with 500 friends, the process can take five hours or more. That may be the reason for the site’s somewhat modest user numbers: It runs off a single server and can process only one Facebook account and one Twitter account at a time.

In its first six months of virtual life, the Machine had performed 5,000 mercy killings, though the waiting line reached 70,000 would-be suicides at one point. While successful “victims” are hard to track down — if they’ve cut ties with their Facebook pals, it stands to reason that they aren’t too eager to be found by nosy writers on assignment — the “last words” left on the site suggest little remorse. “Peace out, MySpace,” reads one. “Take me, afterlife! I’m ready!” proclaims another.