3 Steps to Cleaning Up Your Act Online

Whether you like it or not, if you use the internet at all, you can be found online. And I bet that it will take me less than 10 minutes to find you.

We are children of the Internet, first generation of the Information Age.

Sharing is an integral part of our culture as young adults, but as we enter the world of full-fledged adults it becomes necessary to prune our public image.

After all, you probably don’t want a future employer or family friend to see pictures of a night you’d rather never happened.

1. Google yourself

“Google” is synonymous with Internet search nowadays, and you should know how you’re presenting yourself online.

This is especially important if you have an uncommon name and a lot of Internet profiles. If you have common name, searching for your name + your city/county/country/school name will probably turn up results – anything to narrow it down.

If you’re like me and use the same username for everything, you should also search for that. And of course – use other search engines as well.

2. If you find something you don’t like, delete it

We often hear “if you put something on the Internet, it’s there forever.” That’s completely true – but just because the data still exists somewhere, doesn’t mean your average Joe Googler has access to it.

If you don’t want your 10-year-old Neopets account taking the top space of your Google results, delete the account. Many sites offer the ability to delete your account, and if they don’t make it obvious, they will usually be able to delete things if you contact their support team or the forum moderators.

Big sites, like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, allow you to export and download a copy of your data.

This is useful if you want to permanently delete your Twitter account, but don’t want to lose everything clever you’ve said in the past 5 years.

Once you’ve done what you can to delete the offending content, it will probably disappear from the Google search results in a few weeks.

3. Clean yourself up

Now that you’ve (hopefully) cleaned up your search results, you need to focus on the ones you don’t want to delete. At this point, it’s down to individual websites and whatever content you’ve put on them. Here are tips for a few common social networks:

  • Facebook: There are ever-changing, yet powerful privacy controls, but if you want to keep it simple you may have to go through all of your posts and photos and untag/delete/censor them.There is actually a setting that will allow you to review everything you get tagged in before it goes on your timeline – make sure to enable that.
Make sure to use the “View as…” tool on your Profile page to test it out.
  • Twitter: You can either protect all your tweets or open yourself to the world. Of course, if you choose to lock it down, you can’t just allow everyone that asks to follow you – that’s kind of the point of security.
  • Tumblr: Unfortunately, Tumblr doesn’t allow you to protect your blog at will (you can, however, create a protected blog from scratch). There are tools that will allow you to download your posts if you choose to delete your blog.

I know what it’s like to be a student and be online – it’s hard to control everything that goes out, but it’s important to keep an eye on it. Doubly so for us, in fact: as students, we are beginning to enter the workforce and our future employers will be searching for us.

Questions? Suggestions? Like what you see, or am I completely wrong? Leave it in the comments!