For $US100 ($136) a year, you can pay for a widget to screen your social media accounts for embarrassing posts that could damage your chances of getting a job or getting into university. Startup BrandYourself provides online reputation management software that allows you to “minimise negative search results and build a positive web presence”.
Image from Clinton Steeds
One feature in particular scans past social media posts to flag content involving drug use, alcohol, sex, or negative rhetoric about a former employer. (The scans don’t include photographs, which can often be more incriminating and easier to access.)
If you’re worried about how you come off to a hiring manager or admissions faculty on social media, then there’s a free, albeit more time-consuming, way to make changes: Do it yourself.
Search yourself on the internet
The quickest way to see what information is out there about you is to Google yourself. You can see what kind of photographs pop up or if anything strange appears with the first search result. It’s also a great way to see if your social media accounts show up and, if they do, how much information is available to others.
Make social media private
Check your privacy settings on your social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The best setting would be to keep everything on these platforms private, but you can customise depending on how you use these accounts.
Facebook: For those who are not added to your account, keep everything private except for a default picture and a name. For friends, turn on settings that ask you for approval when someone tags you in a post or photograph and keep your photographs for limited eyes only. Then, check your page to see what you’ve posted and what others have posted in the past. Even if you didn’t share anything terrible, that doesn’t mean a well-meaning friend didn’t share something as a joke that could be misinterpreted.
Instagram: Consider turning your account private. Or, go through your feed and pinpoint questionable posts and temporarily remove the content. Instagram recently released an “Archive” feature that allows for users to pull out posts from their feed without losing the post, comments or likes. It can also be placed right back in the feed whenever you want.
Twitter: Be self-aware. Do you share controversial and polarising tweets? If so, go private. If not, be vigilant about what you post. Go through your old posts and delete tweets (and remove retweets) that an employer or school might find questionable.
Other platforms: know how privacy works. Pinterest, for example, allows for private boards. Make sure only people you trust follow you on Snapchat, and know that there are loopholes through which people can screenshot and save photos and videos on the platform without you being notified.
Delete old platforms and pages
Had a Xanga, Live Journal, Myspace or similar account once upon a time? It’s time to look them up and properly deactivate. If the platforms are still up and running, then old pages and accounts may be available for viewing.