Social Media: Cleaning Up Your History. A Guide For Teens.

Social media is just a good time. Facebook is for TBH, or sharing jokes. Tagged in a pic? No big deal. Put an opinion out there? No harm no foul. Instagram is for selfies, party pics and OOTD. Doesn’t matter who you follow, or who follows you. Just keep your settings to private and you’ll be fine. Tossed words at a guy you thought flirted with your girl? Posted a meme about how everyone else is prettier than you? Used f*ck as a verb, noun and adjective on a regular basis? Everyone does it so it’s okay.

As a young adult, who grew up leaving a scattered trail of digital history, you’re about to find out that every single thing you did online might echo through your attempts to gain admission to a school, get that job you want, or even influence your personal relationships.

“I’ll just lock my accounts while I’m looking for a job.”

“I’ll make my settings private. They can’t force me to show them my facebook.”

It doesn’t work that way.

Here’s how it works. Your social track record will be investigated. A locked or private account will act as a warning sign. Only people with something to hide lock accounts and refuse access to potential employers (or so the thought is).

What about that picture from the lake three years ago Sarah took – the one where you’re holding a joint – and posted on facebook on her account and tagged you. It will show up in a search. The fights with your mom she detailed on her personal feed? There. Booty shorts and cowboy boots with your bestie? It’s there, somewhere, likely shared so far there’s no way getting it back.

Kids entering the work world now have an unprecedented amount of information made public, and while there’s room for “kids will be kids”, a consistently unflattering character representation can be detrimental.

We get it. No one told you, and no one told your parents. It’s not fair that you’ll be held to the fire for the mistakes of your youth, or the mistakes of others. So here’s what you can do to clean up that image.

    1. Delete your twitter account and start a new one as an adult. Trust me. You won’t regret it. And use your real name. It looks good to employers if you’re willing to own your words.
    2. On Facebook, visit your “photos of you” section. Request that any unflattering pictures of you that someone else has posted be removed. If they refuse, then remove all tags and be ready to acknowledge to a potential employer that you may have had indiscretions in the past.
    3. Do the same on pics you’ve posted and tagged others in. Delete any photos you have that might negatively impact others. You don’t want your reputation impacted by another’s error in judgement, and vice versa.
    4. Ask your parents to delete posts on their facebook/twitter or other social media that mention you negatively. This includes fights you’ve had, times you haven’t arrived home on time (or at all), comments regarding your mental health. And when you become a parent, don’t sharent.
    5. On Instagram, delete any negative pictures (including every single one with fish lips or that awkward hip out, twist so your waist looks smaller mirror pic). Party pics with hat on backward = okay. Party pics with hat on backward puking into a bucket with the caption “making room for more” = not okay. Also delete the “I love you bae heart emoji heart emoji heart emoji rainbow”
    6. Repeat these steps for any platform you’ve been using.
    7. Start a LinkedIn account.
    8. Restore your reputation. Start to populate your social media feeds with responsible content. Post images other than selfies. Talk about things that matter to you, with positivity. Use real words and proper grammar. Don’t get into a fight, don’t post your feelings. Show potential interviewers that they can chalk whatever they might find despite your best efforts to youthful indiscretion. That you understand the power and impact of social media and will be using it to better the world, not pollute it, and that you are not only a safe hire, but a brilliant hire.

Sounds like hard work. It is. It’s far harder to take back what’s put out there, than it is to put it out there. The good news is, you’ll think twice about what you post on social media from now on, right?