With kids and adults alike constantly adding to their social networking profiles and ever-growing digital footprints, it’s important to think about cleaning up our online reputations every so often. Below are tips on how to clean up everything from Facebook and other social networking profiles to overflowing email inboxes and obsolete tweets:
- Forgotten friends – everyone has made and/or received the occasional random friend request, and those are fine to accept. But make a point of going through your list of online friends this spring and delete those that you have a hard time remembering how you know them, where (or if) you’ve met in person, or if you have any friends in common. The more people you’re friends with online, the more people who have access to the information in your profile.
- Pending friend requests – rather than leaving pending friends in limbo, either accept or reject their requests. You may come away with someone you should have friended long ago, and you also will get rid of that questionable request from someone you’ve never met or even heard of.
- Pending event invitations or app requests – RSVP to events you’ve received an online invite for, and accept or deny app requests. But be cautious of what you are accepting because third parties frequently get user information from random apps.
- Apps you’ve used…once – apps access basic profile information, as mentioned above. So if you can’t remember the last time you used FarmVille or Mafia Wars, delete those apps so they are no longer linked to your personal information.
- Outdated groups – while it may have been fun to be in a group when your friend lost their cell phone and was asking for numbers, it’s not necessary to have that cluttering your current profile. Groups are great when they serve the purpose of general interests, upcoming events and plans, or long-term organizations but when they’re outdated and unnecessary, feel free to get rid of them.
- Personally identifying information – most people will inevitably use their first and last names on different social networks, which is generally fine. However, it’s not okay – especially for kids – to put much additional personally identifying information posted online, including addresses, phone numbers, full birth dates, and other information that can make it easier to track them or that can be used for identity theft. Delete all personal information and try not to share much more direct information than your last name.
- Activities and interests – it’s not necessary to list every single favorite book, band, movie, TV show, or activity that you have on your Facebook profile. If an online friend cares enough to read about that, they probably already know about all your favorite interests.
- Old status updates and wall posts – these grow outdated after a while, so they don’t have to stay online. Go ahead and delete some of the written proof of your online activity every so often; we promise that no one will miss your status update from three years ago!
- Old albums and tagged photos – just like wall posts and updates, people generally forget about posted photos after a while. Go ahead and de-tag old pictures of yourself, as well as your own photos that you’ve posted – and if your friends give you grief, then make them a good old-fashioned photo album.
- Emails – apparently “e-hoarding” is a growing problem. Don’t be like this guy and be sure to delete old emails for better organization, efficiency, and space in your inbox.
- Online accounts – maybe you purchased something online once and had to make an account just to check out. While frustrating for you, online shopping sites and other online retailers often require a certain amount of information from users, even if you know that you will never frequent that site again. Go back and retrieve your personal information from those kinds of sites to reduce your digital footprint.
- Old tweets – even though there are numerous tweets a day and yours can get lost, it still doesn’t hurt to go back and delete them every so often. You may have tweeted something out of anger or frustration in the heat of the moment…but whatever you were frustrated about doesn’t matter now and doesn’t need to be permanently online.
These tips serve two different purposes, the first being organization and conciseness. It’s unlikely that many people will want to pour through pages and pages of photos, or continuously scroll down your profile page reading every single favorite movie or interest you’ve listed. So it’s therefore unnecessary to have all the information posted online. The second purpose of spring cleaning is to maintain a respectable and polished online reputation. Profiles should reflect how you want to be perceived in the future, not just right now. This is especially important for kids and teens who are currently applying for college or filling out summer job applications. The bigger our digital footprints are, the easier it is for other people to find us online. So let’s all take part in spring cleaning to make sure that anything other people do find online is positive, respectable and tactful.
How do you encourage your family to maintain a positive online reputation?