Facebook is stealing our data, our bosses are checking our Instagram stories and our friends can track us on Snapchat, maybe it’s time to double check what we have out there on the world wide web. Going through your social media accounts might feel like a Herculean task at this point, but if we’ve learned anything from Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing this week, it’s that Facebook and other social media companies are using our data in ways we can’t even imagine.
That revelation just means that in order to control our own personal data, we have to control what actually goes out online. We can do that by watching what we post, educating ourselves about privacy settings and doing an annual (or monthly) checkup on everything. If you’re ready to do a little social spring cleaning, here’s how to start.
Look at your Facebook privacy settings
With Facebook’s whole security mess, they’ve updated the way users can change their privacy settings. In the before time, it took you 20 different screens to view and change your security data. Apparently all it takes is a little international scandal and a drastic drop in your stock price to make things easier for your two billion users.
Go to your settings on Facebook and select “Privacy Shortcuts” to get a quick overview of who you let see your posts and profile information. You can select whether you want the “public,” “your friends,” “only me” or just specific people to see your information and then set a default option so that you don’t have to remember to set it each time.
Do a privacy checkup
Another new feature on Facebook is the “Privacy Checkup.” The three-step process walks you through the privacy settings and shows you how many third-party apps have access to your information. When you log into another app with Facebook, that company gains access to everything you’ve shared on Facebook including personal information, posts and friends lists. You might be surprised by how many apps you’ve logged into with your Facebook ID. There are the obvious ones like Farmville and Tinder (cough) but every time you click on a friend’s “Who is your celebrity twin?” quiz and allow them to use your information to see if you look more like Jennifer Aniston or Jennifer Lawrence, you’re giving that application access to your information. Go through all the third-party apps you’ve logged into and delete anything you’re not using regularly. Especially if you’ve never heard of them (talking to you, PandaCat).
Deep clean your posts
This is the one you’ve been dreading, isn’t it? You just know there’s stuff out there that you don’t remember posting but a potential employer will definitely come across during the hiring process. How are you supposed to go through years-worth of posts on every social media platform? Don’t worry, obviously there’s an app for that. Scrubber is the one third-party app you actually want accessing your information because they’ll track down all those inappropriate posts and help you delete them. According to their website, Scrubber will find and flag any posts containing profanity, innuendo, mentions of drugs and alcohol, religion, politics and any other custom keywords you might want them to check out. They scan through all your posts and any comments left by friends or others.
Scrubber also claims on their homepage that they “never share/sell/loan/give your data to anyone” and that they never store anything except flagged posts, but it’s still probably best to delete them again once they’ve cleaned things up for you. Just to be safe.
Tidy up the people you follow
While you’re cleaning up your posts, consider the accounts you follow or the people you’re “friends” with who are just cluttering up your feed. Do you really care about what your high school lab partner is doing right now? If not, delete. Do you follow a bunch of Instagram accounts from that time in 2014 when you were really into Pilates, but have since moved on to other things? Unfollow. Take ten minutes off from mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed and mindfully scroll through your follows to get rid of the people you just don’t need updates on.
Use your block button
Take it one step further and use your block button to eliminate any negativity that’s ruining the online experience for you, especially on Twitter. People can be harsh, but thankfully, websites and apps give you a way to literally shut out the haters. If you don’t want to hear from someone, block them. Simple as that.
Untag your photos
You may have cleaned up your own profile but have you looked at what other people have tagged you in? It doesn’t matter that you’ve trashed all your drunken Dominican pics from Reading Week 2010 if you’re still tagged in five other people’s albums. Find out what you’re tagged in and remove yourself from anything unflattering. It might not get the pictures off the internet, but at least it will be harder for your boss to stumble across them. You can also stop the tagging at the source on Instagram and Facebook by going to your settings and turning off tagging. That might be a lifesaver.
Update the things you actually want people to see
Social media is about connecting and it’s a great way of staying in touch and networking. Update the parts of your profile you want people to see so that you can use your accounts to clearly communicate what you’re up to (within reason) and look good to people you might want a business relationship with. With all the Facebook talk, don’t neglect places like LinkedIn where you want to keep your job and experiences up-to-date in case business opportunities come along. Remember that sharing some info on social media can be a good thing. Just make sure you have control of it.