These days, anyone from your future boss, to a blind date, to even your new boyfriend’s mother has the option to get to know you a little bit before you ever come face to face with them. If you have social media profiles, chances are you can be found with a simple Google search. Even if you didn’t post that photo of you doing a keg stand at a frat party in college, if you’re tagged in it, someone might find it. Luckily, there are ways to make sure your most shameful moments don’t end up out there for everyone to see – and you don’t even have to quit all social media cold turkey. You just need to be smart about it.
Google yourself. First things first. You need to see what other people see when they Google your name so you can adjust accordingly. If the first thing that pops up is your LinkedIn profile, you’re on the right track. If it’s that blog rant you wrote about how you just can’t stand your job, you have some work to do, so to speak.
Use the privacy settings. Every social media website has privacy settings for a reason. You should keep accounts like Facebook, and maybe Instagram, as private as possible. You can get away with leaving Twitter and LinkedIn a little more public if you’re using them primarily for career-related things. You don’t need a future employer (or a stalker, for that matter) to know you’re half in the bag at a friend’s bachelorette party one Friday night.
Consider using an alias. A lot of people prefer to guarantee a potential employer won’t be able to find them on Facebook by using their middle name instead of their first name. Your friends and family will still know it’s you, but anyone else will be a lot less likely to find you if they search the name on your resume.
Make sure your friends know the deal. You aren’t 21 anymore, so taking a hundred pictures a night probably doesn’t happen quite as often as it used to. But we all have that one friend that just doesn’t get it. If she can’t be trusted with tagging privileges, delete her as a friend. Maybe then she’ll get the message.
Ask your friends to delete certain things. Even if you aren’t tagged in that photo where you had an accidental nip slip, it’s still online, and there’s just no guarantee it won’t even up somewhere you don’t want it to. Hopefully your friends wouldn’t post your nipple online anyway, and if they would, you might need to reconsider your friends.
Don’t add everyone and their half-cousin as a friend. It may be tempting to pad your follower count with a bunch of people you’ve never even met, but resist. Keep Facebook for people you actually know in person, leave LinkedIn for career networking, and maintain a healthy mix on Instagram and Twitter.
Curb your compulsive TMI. It may be hard to believe in our current culture of over-sharers, but generally no one cares what you ate for breakfast today, or how your boyfriend has learned some new skills in the bedroom *wink*. Just shut up, or you’ll find yourself unfriended.
Be nice. Celebrities are constantly engaging in Twitter feuds that end up as a series of screenshots on TMZ. But you aren’t a Kardashian, and it makes you look unstable when you’re constantly calling people out on social media. If you have a bone to pick, do it in person, and spare your friends and followers the drama.
Don’t be an attention whore. Hands down, the worst kind of people on social media are the ones who post vague woe is me status updates for the sole purpose of getting people to ask them what’s wrong. It’s insincere, and extremely obvious what you’re doing. So don’t.
Don’t tweet while under the influence. At least your indecipherable drunk texts are only going to one person. If you tweet gibberish at 1am on a Saturday night, everyone knows why. Think twice before you post that photo of you and your third tequila shot on Instagram too. By the time you wake up in the morning and delete it, it’s already too late.
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