Tips to Prevent Your Social Media Past from Haunting Your Future

Lauren Peek | @_LaurenPeek How long have you had your Facebook account? What about your Twitter? When was the last time you logged into those social media accounts you haven’t used in a while like your Myspace and Xanga (if you even remember the passwords)? Do you remember every tweet you've sent, every photo you've posted, and every angry status update that you maybe shouldn't have shared? While we're still waiting for every social media site to allow posts to disappear like Snaps, it is up to you to protect yourself from your social media past.

Unless you can honestly say with 100 percent certainty that you know nothing unprofessional is attached to any one of your social media accounts, it’s time for an audit. There’s no time like the new year to reevaluate your social media presence.

When was the last time you Googled yourself? Do it now and look at what shows up. While it’s always kind of cool to show up on one of the first few pages, it is also important to make sure nothing potentially damaging shows up there either. If photos appear, make sure they're ones you would show your grandmother.

Speaking of photos, just delete them. Drunken photos? Delete. Photos in which you look like you might be drunk or engaging in illegal activity? Delete. If you can’t delete them because they were posted by a friend, untag yourself from the photos and consider asking the friend to remove them. When in doubt, remove any photos that could paint you in a negative light. College party photos do not need to define the beginning of your career.

You should also dig back through your posts and tweets and delete any and all instances of profanity. Since spelling and grammar errors won’t be helping you prove to future bosses that you are a master of the English language, they might be better off removed as well. If you have any overly negative, angry, or dramatic social media sharings, these are probably also better off in the trash.

While it is a good idea to regularly check on and update your privacy settings, it’s not unheard of for future employers to ask you to log in to your accounts so they can see everything from the back end. You can hide those angsty posts or drunken photos from prying eyes, but they might not always stay hidden.

Make sure your profile information is up-to-date and accurate. While it might have been cute and angsty for your Twitter bio to say, “I can’t wait to get out of here,” when you were still in high school, what kind of message would that be saying when you go in for your first professional after-college interview? Does your location describe your actual location? (P.S. It shouldn't read Narnia or Hogwarts.) When was the last time you actually read through your profile information on your accounts? If it has been a while, then it is definitely time to make sure this gets a new look.

Your accounts are your personal brand. Update your vanity URL on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn to reflect your actual name, not that embarrassing childhood screen name. Consider following and interacting with brands, rather than just your friends. When you’re trying to get a job, get into graduate school, or get a prestigious internship, it is important to show yourself as a well-rounded and educated individual.