Social Media Clean Up - A How-To with Tips From 32 Experts

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January 10, 2022

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Table of Contents

With social media, it’s so easy to hide behind a screen and hit “send” that you don’t always consider the consequences of your digital footprint. Although social media networks, like Instagram, allow you to connect with like-minded people from all over the world, every comment or photo you post could potentially harm your reputation later on in life. This is where a social media clean-up comes in handy.

A social media clean-up may include anything from updating Facebook privacy settings to deleting questionable posts from Twitter. These small changes could potentially save your teen from a college rejection letter or even prevent a scandal during the job application process.

Keep scrolling to learn more about the importance of a social media clean-up and how it can improve your child’s online presence.

1. Know what is out there

Andrew Selepak, Social Media Professor, University of Florida

Andrew Selepak headshot
Andrew Selepak

The best way for students to clean up and protect their online presence is to do a regular social media audit. Students should reexamine their Instagram posts, go back through their Twitter posts with Advanced Search, check their TikTok videos, and review their daily Facebook Memories notifications for posts that no longer accurately reflect their views or could damage their reputation.

Too often we make posts when we are emotional that don't accurately reflect our true views or at least our more articulate and subdued views, or posts we made when we were younger that embarrass us today.

While it is always important to pause before making a social media post that might be made in anger or despair, it is just as important to pause and review any old posts that were made under similar emotional distress, or made without thinking. Parents and educators should also remind students that posts made today for likes, comments, and follows, could be the same posts that prevent a student from getting a job, internship, or letter of recommendation tomorrow.

Andrew Selepak discusses social media reputation management and branding on the Podcast

2. Ask yourself, “Would I be proud to have this accredited to me?”

Michelle Enjoli, Founder, Connect with Michelle Enjoli

Michelle Enjoili headhot
Michelle Enjoli

Social media has become a powerful tool that can be extremely beneficial or destructive to a student’s online presence based on the content they share and their use of it.

The number one piece of advice that I give to students when discussing their social media profiles is to think about the content they share on each platform. When deciding on what content to share or what conversations to take part in, a good question to ask yourself is, “If this post or conversation were to make it on national television and accredited to me, would I be proud?” If the answer is no, do not share or participate in the dialogue.

If you are looking for ideas for content that would be appropriate for you to share, think about your future. What profession do you see yourself in? Follow the accounts of people in that profession for motivation, inspiration, and education. Take a look at what they post and who they follow as well for additional ideas on how to position yourself on social media.

I also suggest routinely cleaning up your accounts by deleting inappropriate posts, comments, and other social media users that negatively affect you.

3. Remove content that would damage your reputation

Aaron Simmons, Founder, Test Prep Genie

Aaron Simmons headshot
Aaron Simmons

Remove suggestive, offensive, and explicit photos and posts. Frankly, you really shouldn’t be uploading things like these on the internet because so many people can use it to invade your privacy.

If you have posted tweets, shared posts, or uploaded photos and videos of you drinking or doing something you shouldn’t, it’s best to hide it in a private folder or better yet, delete it altogether.

Do you like doing volunteer work or at-home projects? Share them. This will help build up your character which will give you better chances of getting accepted.

Remove all accounts from shady websites. Websites like JustDeleteMe are very helpful for this task. It’ll automatically detect the email address you use on your account and show you all the websites you have registered it in as well as the instructions on how to delete your account.

Bottom line: It’s important to build a positive online presence to keep yourself safe online. It becomes even more important if you are trying to appeal to a college or university. To create a positive image, try removing explicit, offensive, or suggestive photos and posts, post about positive things like volunteer work or creative projects, and clean your account of dubious websites.

4. Think about your personal data

Rob Shavell

Rob Shavell, CEO, Abine/Delete Me

Personal data has long been recognized as a vulnerable threat vector for modern cybersecurity. When it comes to data safety, people themselves are often their own worst enemies. 

By oversharing on social media, people can compromise their own security. 

Use a proactive data broker removal service

One of the biggest threats to data privacy comes from publicly available information, collected, collated, and sold by people search sites and data brokers. A subscription-based service (like DeleteMe) scans the net for users’ data on these sites and coordinates its removal on the subscribers’behalf. 

Doing so removes ammunition for hackers looking to send phishing emails or break into corporate accounts with easy to guess passwords. It also reduces targeted advertising, such as robocalls. Reducing third-party access to personal information also minimizes the chance that targeted doxxing or online harassment will be successful. 

5. Know the Rules

Melissa Lowry, Melissa Lowry Education Coaching

Melissa Lowry headshot
Melissa Lowry

Social media provides teenagers with a window to the world, a portal through which they can connect with others, form & nurture relationships, support causes in which they believe, and express themselves in clever and unique ways. Establishing a positive digital footprint, however, is not as easy as it sounds, so teens should always consider few simple rules.

The "Golden Rule":

If you wouldn’t want someone to post something about you, you shouldn’t post it about someone else.

The "24-Hour" rule:

Posting angry or explosive comments in the heat of the moment can leave you with regrets. Give yourself a 24-hour “cooling off period” before posting anything angry or explosive. You may very well find that your viewpoint has changed once you’ve let an issue sit for 24 hours.

The "10 O’Clock News" rule:

Before posting pictures or videos, answer the question, “Would I want to see this on the 10 o’clock news?"

The "Leave Them Wanting More" rule:

We’ve all encountered someone who gives us TMI: Too Much Information! Social media is not your personal billboard to the world. You do not need to post every photo, say everything you feel, or selfie yourself to death. In other words, leave your followers wanting more!

The "Internet is Forever" rule:

Once you’ve posted, blogged, texted, commented, hit record, or clicked a snapshot, what you’ve posted is on the Internet forever. Yes. Forever. Refer to the four rules above if that still hasn’t sunk in!

6. Make reviewing and cleaning a practice

Mo Mulla

Mo Mulla, Founder, Parental Questions

Some tips on how to clean up your old social media posts include:

  • Review your posts and delete any that are no longer representative of your current beliefs or ideas
  • Remove any identifying information (e.g. your location, contact info) from your posts
  • Use privacy settings to restrict who can see your post.
  • Make it a practice to regularly review your social media posts and delete any that are no longer relevant
  • Set a time to clean up your social media posts and online profile quarterly, yearly, or as needed. Know what you want to keep and what you want to delete

7. Go way back

Jonathan Tian

Jonathan Tian, Co-Founder,

Strategies to clean up older social media posts:

Go way back into your history

Assess ALL your older posts. Analyzing all the posts from the launch of a social media account to the present day is important. Although you might not realize how different you were when you launched your account for the first time, make sure to check out all those accounts, whether you use them now or not.

Deactivate older accounts

If you have any social media accounts you have stopped using, deactivate those accounts. In some instances, it’s best to delete those accounts entirely if they aren’t being used anymore. You don’t want a college admissions officer or ahiring manager to find a long-lost account on social media and see those rubbish posts. 

8. Does it pass the “Grandma test”?

Zach Reece

Zach Reece, Chief Operating Officer, Colony Roofers

As an employer, one of the first things I do when considering a new employee is to check their social media profiles. I can tell you that it can be a dealbreaker when a person has a very inappropriate social media presence.

I recommend reviewing your social media profiles at least once per year. I compare it to cleaning your room; the less frequently you do it, the longer it will take to clean your room when you eventually do it because more dirt will have piled up.

My general recommendation for deleting versus keeping posts is the Grandma test: If you believe that you can say or show the content of your post to your grandmother in person, then don’t delete it. But if you couldn’t fathom telling your grandmother or other loved one this in person, then you probably shouldn't be saying it at all, so you should delete it.

9. Think twice about pranks (old or new)

Jeremy Hulls

Jeremy Hulls, Senior Editor, Family Destinations Guide

I understand that pranks are one of the ways to create strong bonds with friends. However, pranksters are walking on a thin line between what's funny and what's embarrassing.

I've seen old prank videos from my own social media and I just realized that the prankee isn't having fun. He had a small smile but his head was facing downward. It just seems like he was embarrassed, and the smile he

had was just out of peer pressure. I believe that since everyone around is smiling, it may give the impression that everyone is having a good time.

*I deleted it.*

I strongly believe that pranks should only be posted with the consent of the prankee. If you're not sure if you should post it or not, ask the person who's at the receiving end of the prank. 

10. Mean what you post

Michele Ramsey, Associate Professor, Communication Arts & Sciences and Women’s Studies, Penn State Berks

Michele Ramsey headshot
Michele Ramsey

One of the first things I talk about with students is that nothing posted online is private.


So if students use bad judgment when posting on social media, that momentary lapse of judgment can stick with them for years to come. We all make mistakes, have lapses in good judgment, and are just plain imperfect humans.

Sometimes we have opinions at one point in our lives that we look back on later and can’t imagine ever having. But with the advent of social media, those momentary lapses or opinions borne of ignorance can follow and define students for years. Cache files and screenshots mean nothing is ever really deleted, either. So thinking carefully about posts is very important.

One of the constant refrains I hear from people who don’t want to be told what they can or can’t or should or shouldn’t post on social media is that it’s a free speech issue. Students must be willing to accept the consequences of what they post, which can never be “taken back,” no matter how many times they apologize or swear that they “didn’t mean” what they said.

In terms of social media overall, students are usually surprised to learn how many future employers look at social media when hiring. And while most realize that they are taking risks if they post something problematic on a social media site, they often don’t realize that posting only bland material isn’t good for them, either.

Organizations actually do want to see that students have a life with friends, family, and events. They want to see students fitting in with people and having fun. If students don’t have any of those types of posts, employers may assume that they’ve wiped all the potentially negative messages from their profile and wonder why nothing is left and/or assume that they’re not social and may not fit into their organization. Thus, students are often surprised to learn that they should be posting appropriate pictures from typical life events like beaches or weddings or the like.

In their posts, students should:

  • Include expressions of gratitude for people who help them
  • Use appropriate humor
  • Show support for others
  • Add to discussions that support the brand they’re creating for themselves linked to their majors/careers
  • Share the stories/memories about their life without overly dramatic tones or deep secrets

Students should not post about illegal activities, bullying communication, trashing of teachers or complaining about school/classes, any images that others could see as negative, or anything that they wouldn’t be fine with being posted on a public billboard with their name attached.

Also, students should not post when emotional. I encourage students to write those feelings down somewhere else, not online. Finally, students shouldn’t retweet or repost the posts of others that might be inflammatory. Once someone posts something that someone else has said, that student “owns” that post as if they’d been the original poster themselves.

It’s important to know that most companies use social media for hiring and pay attention to grammar and spelling in addition to the content of posts. So, I also talk to students about using social media to create their brands.

Crafting an online brand means that they identify what makes them compelling or different and communicate those things to the world. Ways to create a brand online include blogs and social media posts that help define who they are and what they have to offer as a professional that others do not.

11. Customize your private settings

Valerie Barnett

Valerie Barnett, Founder, PleasingCare

This is one thing I do to keep my profile private and exclusive for the people I personally know. I usually do this on my social media accounts to ensure that my profile isn't exposed to the public eye. You can do this by going to your privacy settings and customizing it with the features available. There are options there where people can't search you by your name. Whereas, there will be no Google Search results about you as well.

If people can still find you on social media, such as Facebook, you can turn on the Only Me or Only Friends feature where your photos and posts are only visible to you and your personal friends. Aside from that, you can also make use of their new feature, Lock My Profile, which locks your entire profile and your information is hidden. Even your profile picture is not clickable.

By doing this, you are adding an extra layer of safety and protection from people who want to get access to you and your private information. In this present time where people are very advanced and always find a way to take advantage of other people, it would be best if you always think of a way, as well, to always keep a step ahead.

12. Delete posts without a purpose

Johnathan Smith

Johnathan Smith, Founder, CamperGuide

One way to maintain and keep a clean online footprint on your social media accounts is to manually delete unnecessary posts that were meant just for fun, or a purpose you don’t currently identify within your life. 

Only keep those posts that you consider important. Now, this method would take time since you’ll have to scroll through past posts. You can also choose to delete your entire account and start a new and fresh account that can be more private and for professional use.

Cleaning your online footprint can be very useful most especially when you are trying to apply for a job. Having well-maintained social media accounts leaves a good impression on employers which will enable you to obtain a higher chance of getting hired.

Aside from that, keeping your information exclusive for your family and personal friends prevents you from fraudulent activities since all your confidential details are kept private and not visible to the public eye.

13. Use yourself as an example to teach your kids

Sharon Van Donkelaar

Sharon van Donkelaar, CMO, Expandi

Parents can show their kids how easy it is to find information about other people online. Sometimes that information is sensitive, and sadly, we're the ones that have put it there in the first place.

Doing a search can help you see what you don't like, and what needs to be gone. Listing the social media sites that you have created profiles on, revisiting them, and deleting the ones that you don't use anymore takes time, but it's actually quite simple to do as long as you have access to the email you used.

Deleting sensitive info and comments that you posted in the past helps you stay safe, and learn what you should and should not post for everyone to see in the future.

14. Look up old account usernames and passwords

Cindy Corpis

Cindy Corpis, CEO,

Audit your social media accounts

You have to audit your accounts which you have created online. An audit is essential if you have opened many accounts over time for gaming, socializing, even online shopping. All those accounts are easy to forget but essential to manage.

Delete and deactivate

You need to find your older social media accounts, delete all the posts, and deactivate accounts, which you don’t need. 

You might even see that your browser might have saved your older passwords and usernames. In case you have forgotten your username, rummage through your email inboxes to search email messages from the websites that may contain the username. On most sites, you can follow their account look-up process to get your account details back. Then, deactivate those web accounts and posts.

15. Keep or delete: Make the decision

Erik Nilsson

Erik Nilsson, Father, Teacher, & Founder of BookSummaryClub 

You can begin by Googling yourself. It sounds simple, but you can dig up many unwanted social media posts, blogs, content, etc., that you don’t want anyone to see.

These negative posts or comments could be a make-it-or-break-it moment for an Admissions Officer or future employer. So, begin by addressing any risky content or inappropriate photos you are tagged in.

The easiest way to steer clear of any such situation is by changing your privacy settings in those old accounts. One setting, for example, will not allow anyone to tag you without your consent.

Social media users should look back on their profiles when applying for a job or higher education. In recent years, background checks and Google searches have become quite common to double-check what the candidate said in an interview.

Hence, clearing your profile of anything offensive that might lower your chances of acceptance should be removed. Here is a list of red flags to look for when deciding whether to keep or delete your old messages:

Delete pile

• Any provocative videos, pictures, or posts

• Explicit photos that include the use of drugs

• Racist or discriminatory comments

• Complaints about the past workplace

• Cynical memes or posts

Keep pile

• Profile content that reflects professionalism

• Content that shows your positive views

• Posts that highlight your personality

16. Do your old posts mirror your ideas today?

Paul Sherman

Paul Sherman, Chief Marketing Officer, Olive

Consider whether you need to just delete the posts on your social media profiles or delete your accounts altogether. 

Some people have had social media accounts since they were teenagers and, unsurprisingly, find that the

things they said back then aren’t consistent with their current beliefs. However, others will find that their use of social media, in general, doesn’t align with who they are today.

Whichever person you are, you need to think about whether you still derive value from using social media – in which case, just delete old posts that are inappropriate – or if you simply don’t want to be on social media at all anymore – you need to delete your accounts and all your data.

17. Set a reminder on your calendar

Anthony Martin

Anthony Martin, CEO & Founder, Choice Mutual

Make it a habit to review your Facebook Memories after auditing all your social media accounts. It can be an effective way to ensure your posts remain clean.

Set a reminder on your phone, say every six months or so, to review all your posts. Reiterating real-life stories about how people have gotten fired from jobs for what they post online can also help support the reasons behind why you should review and delete negative posts.

Continuing to review your posts is essential since you never know if a bad comment will capture the attention of your future employer or someone who will write a recommendation letter.

You might have accidentally posted something that might be misinterpreted or was created during an emotional time. These thoughts/comments you made when you’re young can become an issue when you’re older, when it reflects your integrity, damaging your reputation. This can negatively impact your ability to secure the job you want when your employer reviews your social media profiles.

18. Take inventory, start scrubbing, and build a positive digital footprint

Adam Reynolds, Web Designer/Developer, Clarion Univ. of Pennsylvania

Adam Reynolds headshot
Adam Reynolds

For students, social media has been around for most of their lives, and today’s students are likely on at least one platform every day.

If you ask a student who their favorite celebrities are, you might be surprised by what you hear. You may find athletes and movie stars on their list, but other names might pop up that you’ve never heard of. Social media stars and influencers often take the top spots as more of the entertainment students consume comes in the form of user-generated content.

As an unfathomable amount of content is generated, there is a draw for students to create content themselves. And with so many young adults creating content, they want to stand out from the crowd.

Creating a business or brand online used to be something you’d do in addition to your personal accounts, but now it’s not uncommon for your personal account to be a part of your brand. That means having your personal accounts cleaned up and ready for the world to scour.

Tips on ways students can clean up their social media feeds:

  • Take an inventory of your posts often
  • If you post a lot, look back at your content and see if any posts might be less than desirable
  • Delete posts that you think might cause you trouble
  • Try to view your posts through other people’s eyes: potential employers, family, friends, etc.
  • Set yourself a standard for posting in the future
  • Post content that is true to you, and stick to it

Tips for creating a positive digital footprint:

  • Stop and think before you post
  • Your social feeds might be the only real window someone has into your life. Try to make the message you’re putting out there positive and real, setting yourself apart from the noise
  • Show the good and the real
  • There is a thirst for real and positive content in today’s social media climate: always be genuine and kind
  • Steer clear of fake positivity and fake drama

19. Start with a Google search, think before posting, and remove inactive accounts

Andrea Paul

Andrea Paul, Founder & CEO, Health Media Experts

Check yourself on Google

Check out your name with a Google search. If there is something you don’t want to show, visit the site and remove the content. Check your interaction places, for example, discussion forums, comments sections on your feed, and the places where you are mentioned.

Remove content you don’t want to show

Immediately delete things you don’t like rather than keeping it and thinking a lot about it. Delete those images that you don’t want to show to your future employer.

Limit access

Set up a limit on your social accounts. Do not allow your friends, or anyone, to tag you in their posts or photos so that you don’t have to clean additional posts on your feed later.

Think before posting

Appear what you are and don’t post something that can risk your reputation.

Avoid unnecessary postings, which you might delete later. It would be best if you explore more on social media instead of posting more about yourself. Follow the rule of 80/20: 80 percent about others, and 20 percent about yourself.

Delete inactive accounts

You should delete the accounts that have your personal information, or there may be the risk of hacking.

Review account permissions

Check out the apps you have granted permission to a social media feed and if you’re not using the app, then take back the granted approval.

20. Before deleting your accounts, be sure to delete individual posts or photos

Arash Fayz, Executive Director, LA TUTORS 123

Arash Fayz headshot
Arash Fayz

In order to maintain a positive social media presence, students should consider setting their social media profiles to ‘private’ or ‘locked’ so that only friends can view them.

However, they should also be aware that even if their profiles are set to private, there is still the possibility of their school or classmates accessing their profiles. Students should be cognizant of what they post and not post anything they wouldn’t want screen-grabbed by another student or shared with anyone outside their immediate social circles.

If students decide to leave a social media platform for whatever reason, they should be aware that many platforms will archive their posts or information.  Therefore if there is information they don’t want made public on that platform, they should make sure to update their pages or delete individual posts or photos before deactivating their accounts.

Students should also be wary of the material being posted and shared within their social circles online. Students should make sure any articles or information they share or repost comes from a credible source.

21. Do an audit and improve your content with positive posts

Aisha Marshal, Co-founder, Creative Label

Aisha Marshal headshot
Aisha Marshal
  • Complete a biography audit and begin to think of your Instagram bio as your resume. Be sure to include your name, an appropriate description, contact, call to action, etc.
  • Closely monitor your tagged photos. Be sure all images you are tagged in properly represent you and your personal brand
  • Showcase your community initiatives. Are you involved in charities or volunteer projects? Showcase these social impacts on your feed and in a highlight reel
  • Delete your oldies (If you still have older social profiles that no longer reflect you, delete them)

22. Moving forward, build a proactive strategy instead of spontaneous reactions

Mark Beal, Assistant Professor of Practice in Public Relations, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, and author of Engaging Gen Z

Mark Beal headshot
Mark Beal

Building a positive online presence for today’s students requires a proactive strategy versus a spontaneous reaction. Reacting on social media is being impulsive and mistakes will be made.

Students, as they prepare for their transition to a career, should aspire to be ‘social media thought leaders.’ Based on their areas of interest, study, and career goals, they should strategically and consistently post relevant content on social media that positions them as a thought leader.

Content can include sharing articles as well as publishing and distributing original content featuring their point-of-view on a timely topic. Additionally, proactive and positive thought-leadership content online should go beyond mainstream social channels and extend to platforms such as LinkedIn, blogs, and even producing their own podcast.

23. Implement the Swear Jar Method

Heinrich Long, Privacy Expert, Restore Privacy

Heinrich Long headshot
Heinrich Long

The Swear Jar Method creates good habits for life. I’d start by reviewing what is and isn’t appropriate to post on social media.

What kind of thoughts, words, and content should be removed? That’s something you can decide together as a family, depending on the age of the student.

From there, institute a swear jar approach. Every time you put out negativity online – whether that’s a mean post, an inappropriate one, insulting someone, swearing online, doing something unproductive, or unnecessarily negative – you put a dollar in the jar. That should reinforce good habits online.

When the jar is full, it can be donated to an institution that helps end cyberbullying. That will motivate students to be on their best behavior and will remind them that it is their duty to uphold a standard for their online presence.

This creates good habits into adulthood when they will be immensely grateful to have a squeaky clean social media presence and to not have Facebook remind them of that time they said something inexcusable, or of that picture of underage drinking.

24. Be sure to audit who and what you follow and like online

Jennifer Will, Editor, Etia

Jennifer Will headshot
Jennifer Will

First of all, we should unfollow accounts that we are not interested in. It can be anything from food accounts to rival exes. This will not only make your feed less messy but also more positive.

Also, you don’t have to be present on all of the platforms like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc. You can cut back your activity by deleting some of the apps that you don’t use that frequently.

Lastly, your feed is directly related to the comments, likes, and posts that you share and make. So, if you want to have a positive feed, you just have to focus on positive posts on social media.

25. Highlight your accomplishments and make sure that everything you post is positive

Dianna Taylor, High School English Teacher,

Dianna Taylor headshot
Dianna Taylor

Most employers will find you on social media before setting up an interview. This happens because of the many people who have a negative, inappropriate social presence.

Many students are driven by their likes and shares, so they sometimes post without thinking. In the moment, they don’t realize that the wrong online personality could take away the chances of a job or even a friendship.

In order to keep your online footprint positive, it’s important to get rid of any pictures or posts that appear overly negative or divisive. Everyone should have a voice, but you have to be smart about what you make permanent.

Make sure you keep your personal sites clean. Make a professional profile to highlight your strengths and accomplishments. If you choose to post publicly, don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t want your future boss to see.

The best idea is to limit your social media privacy. With that said, even private posts and content are not guaranteed to stay that way. Anyone can take a screenshot and share your information within seconds.

26. It’s better to have a social media presence than to not have one at all

Denise Walsh, BDW LLC

Denise Walsh headshot
Denise Walsh

In today’s world, social media feeds play a significant role in defining a person’s personality. It is very likely that any employer, before hiring you, will look up your social media profiles.

You may have posted stuff for fun throughout your life, but it must be filtered before you enter your professional life. Not having a social media presence can also play a negative role in hiring; the employer will not interview you if they can’t find anything about you.

So, what methods should we use to filter our social media feeds?

  • Start by reviewing your media files shared, remove any inappropriate photos or videos
  • Remove any political posts, discriminatory comments, or any complaints about your previous employer
  • Keep the content that shows your positive side; information that shows your professionalism and depicts your integrity and responsibility
  • Think like an employer when reviewing your profile, and ask yourself if you would hire you
  • Edit your ‘About Me’ on your social media account updated and make it look professional
  • If you have a blog, that’s good, but make sure it shares a positive image of yours; you may need to remove some of the content if it depicts otherwise
  • The content you make public on your profile must be very carefully selected

27. Utilize the “Memories” tab on Facebook to bulk edit your old posts

Cat Smith, Get Social with Cat

Cat Smith headshot
Cat Smith

It’s so easy for students to put something out on social media that they’ll later regret. Almost no one has a spotless online presence. Facebook accounts can go back 10+ years.

Yes, that is 10+ years’ worth of old opinions, emotional moments, and random polls that accidentally give out personal data. Just imagine going from ten years old to twenty in today’s online world. It could be very embarrassing.

One of my favorite features of Facebook is the “Memories” tab. This page is available on the left side menu under “Explore” or via the lower right menu in the app. Conveniently, your notifications and feed will give you a reminder that “you have memories,” so you don’t have to remember to visit that page every day.

Once you’ve clicked through to the Memories page, you will see all of the posts you made every year on this day, going back to when you joined Facebook. Trying to clean up your web presence as a whole can be a daunting task filled with anxiety. This is a convenient way to go back in time and take out things you wish you hadn’t said or shared.

You should always be hyper-vigilant about what opinions you share publicly because even if your profile is set to “private” and you pick and choose your friends, posting online is a PUBLIC forum. Think of the Memories Tab as your personal time machine to go back and fix the small mistakes in your digital footprint.

28. Create profiles on high domain authority websites

Sameer Somal, Blue Ocean Global Technology

Sameer Somal headshot
Sameer Somal

Online reputation is everything. We are presented with opportunities based on our reputations.

Today, we interact with friends, family, and colleagues largely through text messages, email, and social media, where perception and reality are often confused.

Google and other search engines have made it easy to search for anything online. The emergence of social media allows negative comments to be shared and circulated among large numbers of internet users.

Students must take proactive measures to build a positive digital reputation; they must also prevent and address negative or defamatory content.

Some digital assets that can be considered for proactive reputation management include:

  • Have an active social media presence and coordinated approach for sharing content on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram
  • Do a Google search for your name and evaluate your online presence
  • Create profiles on high domain authority websites like Behance, and, to build an online presence
  • Set up Google Alerts or Mention Alerts to help you keep track of content being published and curated about you
  • Use Facebook privacy permission settings to set who can tag you in a photo or post in order to prevent any reputational damage that an inappropriate image shared by a friend/acquaintance may cause

29. Review your Google search results

Amy Kilvington, Blinds Direct

Amy Kilvington headshot
Amy Kilvington

First, revisit your privacy settings and make sure your profiles have your desired privacy level. On Facebook, you can also see how other people view your page by clicking ‘View as’ on your profile.

Your goal may be to ensure that all posts are private and the only images that are publicly available are your profile and cover photos. Make sure any embarrassing pictures are also removed! An easy way to do this is to bulk delete photo albums that may contain images you don’t want new colleagues or hiring managers to see.

There are also tools available (both free and paid) to scan through your social media profiles and flag any potentially embarrassing, offensive, or controversial posts, including comments you’ve left on other people’s content. One to consider is Scrubber.

Search yourself on Google to see what content you rank for. If anything comes up that you’re not happy with, be sure to delete it from the appropriate website or social channel. If you don’t have the ability to do this, you can submit an EU Privacy Removal to Google. Once approved, certain web content that relates to your name can be deleted from the search results (although it won’t be deleted from the web completely).

30. For a fresh start, delete all social media posts before a given date

Justin Lavelle,

Justin Lavelle headshot
Justin Lavelle

Building a positive digital footprint takes more than a post or two in the morning. It is an ongoing process throughout each day that many people do not have time for. Cleaning up old social media posts to create a more positive digital footprint poses a major challenge for many students, especially when they have hundreds, even thousands, of posts over a number of years.

If you would like a fresh start, begin by giving yourself a deadline. Additionally, websites like Hootsuite, TwitterDeck, and HubSpot allow users to manage their social media posts, track followers, schedule upcoming content, and more for little to no cost.

31. Avoid sharing content that you wouldn’t want your teacher or potential employer to see

Katy Lowe, Passion Digital

Katy Lowe headshot
Katy Lowe

There are a few steps that students can take to ensure that their digital footprint is positive and won’t affect any of their future career prospects or opportunities.

  • Don’t post negative, hateful, harmful, or offensive things on your social media page (you can search through your old content to make sure that none of this content still exists from when you were younger)
  • Don’t engage with negative or harmful content
  • Remember that everything you post online can stay there forever, and could also be seen by anybody
  • Avoid sharing content that you wouldn’t want your teacher or potential employer to see
  • Sometimes strong or controversial opinions are better left off social media – writing can easily be misconstrued or taken out of context
  • Ensure your privacy settings are set to what you want them to be (many people aren’t actually aware of what their privacy settings are)

32. Encourage positive online behaviors by teaching students password security

Victoria Merinda,

An important part of creating a positive experience online is to educate your kids about online password security. Having their social media accounts or phones fall into the wrong hands could potentially lead to inappropriate postings on their accounts, or their information being compromised.

It’s important for family members to sit down together and explain the importance of the information they post online and how to keep their online accounts safe. One tip is to make sure you have a long password, which is a lot harder for hackers to figure out than a password that’s filled with numbers and symbols.

You can choose stronger passwords like “goosegerbilcoffeeiphonepluto” instead of weaker ones like “Sc#[email protected]”. Why is the first option stronger? New guidelines show substituting numbers or other characters for letters doesn’t make passwords as hard to crack as increasing password length does.

Though it may sound simple, creating a strong password and knowing the dangers of a hacked account are Internet basics that everyone should know.

What schools say about online footprint

Schools are searching for students during the application process and here’s what some of them say:

Whether you’re applying for an internship, job, or for grad school, your evaluator will likely perform a quick online search of your profile to see if the persona you’ve presented formally matches with the ‘real’ you. You don’t have to have an extreme case of closet skeletons for a cleanup job to be in order. Pics of drunken revelry, controversial political or religious posts, or anything that could possibly be considered poor taste should get [removed immediately]. - The Harvard Crimson

What the news says about managing your online footprint

The vast majority of hiring managers routinely Google potential job candidates. And what they see on that first page of search results matters — a lot. Just ask Pete Kistler, who was a college junior when he started applying to a bunch of computer software firms, looking for a summer job. [He applied to dozens of jobs and didn’t hear back from any of them.] Kistler says he was puzzled until a friend gave him a call. He worked at one of the companies Kistler had applied to. And [he] said, 'You won't believe this, but but the reason that you didn't get called back was because they Googled you and they found another kid with your name that's a drug dealer and they thought that you were him.' - NPR
A young man sent a single tweet which attracted a response from a prominent sports personality. The tweet contained several swear words and the response would also have been offensive to some. Although there was little else offensive from this person, it came up in every single Google search as the top mention of his name. He felt it was harming his employment chances. - BBC
Whether you’re applying for an internship, job, or for grad school, your evaluator will likely perform a quick online search of your profile to see if the persona you’ve presented formally matches with the ‘real’ you. You don’t have to have an extreme case of closet skeletons for a cleanup job to be in order. Pics of drunken revelry, controversial political or religious posts, or anything that could possibly be considered poor taste should get [removed immediately]. - The Harvard Crimson
In our modern world where most people are searching for everything on the internet, one should invest in how they manage their online trail. [Everyone] should understand the importance of online reputation and how proper management can have a positive effect on their search engine placement. - Forbes
Digital footprints don’t merely attract the interest of hackers or those out to steal your identity. They can also be traced by potential employers, schools, or creditors. Managing your identity clearly matters. When you take steps to control your digital footprint, you take steps not only to protect your own identity and reputation, but that of your family and friends as well. -Norton
Unlike data stored on paper, online information can be aggregated by Internet search engines and other tools, which makes it easier for others to put together their own idea of who you are. Websites may archive what you have posted and data they have collected from you. Friends (or ex-friends) may divulge it; malicious programmers and security lapses may expose it. - Microsoft
Your online presence does matter. – Forbes

Instagram App Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

TikTok App Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

Twitter App Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

Positive Impact of Social Media & Screen Time (What Students, Parents, & Educators Need to Know)


Once your student has spent some time online, it’s important for them to clean up their social media content regularly. This is especially important if they’re going through the college admissions (or hiring) process. Social media mistakes can happen to anyone, no matter how prepared they may be. So learning how to clean up those mistakes is a vital part of having a positive digital footprint. When students follow the steps above, they ensure that their online reputation is a positive reflection of who they are.

We want to hear from you! Do you have any social media clean up tips that aren’t mentioned in the list above? Has your child been affected by a negative digital footprint? Let us know in the comments below how other students can avoid the impact of a detrimental online presence.

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