How to Clean Up Your Profiles and Protect Your Reputation

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Editor’s Note: This post is intended to provide guidance to those who want to keep their social media activity or history private from prospective employers, or they want to update profiles after graduation or a career change, etc. However, if you just post mean things, do the world a favor and show them who you really are.

Have you ever been tagged in a photo on social media that triggered a text from your mother? Have you ever used the term “asshat” in an online debate? Have you ever posted to social media in an exhausted/intoxicated/other impaired state, or worseyou’re not sure?

You may think that anything goes on social media now. Certain individuals in positions of power may seem to be getting away with that way of thinking, but in reality, they’re not. Their activities today are influencing others’ opinions of them for better or for much, much worse. These activities are also going to have an impact on their future opportunities.

Anyone who comes across your public posts may find you utterly charming. Or they may find your posts distasteful, thoughtless, reprehensible, incoherent, or simply grammatically irresponsible.

If your strategy is to just hope for the best, you’re taking a big risk professionally and even personally. So if you think you may have, in your online history, interactions or posts that are awkward, too personal, too political, or downright regrettable, here are some things you can do to clean up your online reputation:

DELETE WHAT’S DISGRACEFUL AND OUTDATED

Remove:

  • Anything illegal, immoral, or that you regret, including arguments, name-calling, etc.
  • Anything that makes you look bad in your industryfor example, bad spelling if you’re a proofreader, bad photos if you’re a photographer, etc.
  • Anything that makes you cringe, including the embarrassing, awkward, and unseemly.
  • Anything no longer relevant in professional social media accounts, like your high school summer job.

This means:

You can save or download the images, posts, or complete profile history you want, but then delete away. Hopefully no one else has screenshot the worst of it.

MANAGE WHAT’S PERSONAL

Limit the audience for:

  • Personal and political posts that you stand by but that are not necessarily anyone else’s business.
  • Personal posts that may be awkward to share with professional connections.
  • Professional posts that might bore or overwhelm close friends and family.

This means:

You can create lists or different accounts for different audiences. Take the time to clean up any lists and to unfollow accounts you no longer want to be associated with.  

LOCK DOWN WHAT’S RISKY

Make private:

  • Any posts or information that is personal, questionable, or that could jeopardize your job or job search, etc.
  • Anything that puts your data or identity at risk.

This means:

You can make anything you don’t want available to the world private. Consider revoking permissions like facial recognition, as well as untagging yourself in others’ posts. Also, go through the lists of apps you have granted permission to access your accounts and decide which you can disconnect.  

HAVE A STRATEGY

  • Compartmentalize posts by platform. For example, only professional posts should go on LinkedIn, but professional posts can appear (sparingly) on your other profiles. Twitter is often a mix, while platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook are primarily for personal useunless you manage business pages for yourself, friends, bosses, clients, etc. Some overlap in social media is unavoidable, but there are ways to manage that and prevent problems.
  • Once you’ve deep cleaned your social profiles, here are some steps to take periodically to keep them tidy.
  1. Do a regular check of your accounts and their settings.

  2. Google yourself and see what comes up.  

  3. Be honest. Be you. Think before you post.

You should certainly do what you want with your social media, but make sure it aligns with the lifestyle and career you want.