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How Can You Scrub Your Social Media Presence?

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People can learn a lot about you from your social media profiles — perhaps more than you’d like. When you overshare on social media, cybercriminals can get a hold of your information, potential employers can see borderline inappropriate photos and comments, and your overall privacy is compromised.

It’s never a bad time to go through your social media accounts and scrub them clean. Reviewing the information that’s available about you online will improve your privacy. Keep the following tips in mind if you want to scrub your social media accounts.

Delete your social media accounts

It may be extreme, but the most surefire way a hiring manager or cyber-criminal won’t find things you don’t want them to is by simply deleting or deactivating your social media accounts. Are you really using them to connect with others or are you just spying on your high school ex’s wedding photos? If you do have old accounts you never log into anymore, you should definitely delete those, whether they’re on a social networking site or any other website.

For many, deleting social media accounts isn’t an option. If that’s the case, you can try these tips to protect your privacy:

Set your profiles to private

At the very least, your accounts should be private. Set them so only your friends or profiles you approve can follow you or see your posts. While you’re at it, make some of your identifiable information, such as your birthday or birthplace, private to only you. Facebook lets you choose which pieces of personal information are shared with only you, only your friends, and everyone else.

Ideally, you won’t have very much personal information on your social media profiles at all. The friends and family who know you personally will already know where you went to college, who your partner is, or where you’ve worked in the past.

Don’t use your real name

On most social media platforms, you can choose a username rather than put your real name. If your account isn’t for professional purposes, avoid putting your real name, or at least not your full name. Friends and family can add you or follow you by asking you personally what your username is.

Facebook has a “real name” policy that prohibits users from using fake names and may flag your account and ask for an official ID if it suspects you’re using a fake name. But you can get away with using a variation of your real name such as an initial or a middle name instead of your last name.

Remove inappropriate posts and photos

This step seems obvious, but you’ll probably feel a little foolish when you scroll through your entire timeline or profile and see what comes up. Look at all your posts and remove or hide any that seem inappropriate, too emotionally or politically charged, or borderline NSFW. Do the same with your photos, including the photos others have tagged you in. While you can’t delete someone else’s photo, you can untag yourself. On Facebook and Instagram, you can change your account settings so that you must review and approve tagged posts before they show up on your profile.

Go through your old comments

As you’re sifting through posts and photos, don’t forget about old comments, either. You can delete your comments on other people’s posts on Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, go to your Activity Log and then Comments to find your comments history. There’s no easy way to find your comment history on Instagram, unfortunately, but it is possible to delete old comments if you do find them.

Google yourself

Google isn’t a social network, but looking yourself up on a search engine will yield results from social media. You might find yourself on other websites, too. And if you can easily find info about yourself after a quick Google search, so can hiring managers and cybercriminals.

Don’t forget to do a Google image search as well, to see if images of you come up that are associated with your name.

Tools to help you scrub your social media accounts

Admittedly, going through all of your social media accounts, post by post and photo by photo, could be tedious. If you’re looking to do some major scrubbing and delete posts in bulk, there are helpful tools you can use:

  • Jumbo: Jumbo is an Android and iOS app that scans your social media accounts looking for sensitive info and recommends ways to make your accounts safer. You can enable the scans to happen regularly so that Jumbo finds and sends you recommendations whenever something questionable comes up.
  • DeleteMe: DeleteMe is a service that monitors data collection and releases about you. It will remove sensitive data such as your name, address, dates of birth, and aliases.
  • JustDeleteMe: Not geared specifically toward social networking sites, JustDeleteMe will show you all the accounts you have registered with your email address. It’s a useful tool for getting rid of accounts you no longer use that may compromise your privacy or cause you trouble later on.

It’s easier to bulk-delete posts on Twitter than on Facebook and Instagram because Twitter has allowed more access to third-party apps. Apps like Jumbo can help you flag individual posts, but if you want to delete, say, every post older than 10 years, you may have to use Facebook’s and Instagram’s native options to do so.

Keeping your social media presence private

However, you go about it, scrubbing your social media accounts will take some time. Investing an hour or so into vetting your profiles will be worth it for your increased privacy, though.

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