Cleaning Up Your Digital Identity: A Student’s Perspective

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying GlassAs Students, we always hear parents, teachers and other adults lecturing us about what we post online. Or, more importantly what we shouldn’t be posting online. We tend to take what they say with a grain of salt.

We half listen, half don’t… and when it comes down to it we tend to forget what we’ve been taught and end up posting something that we later regret. No matter what you want to do after high school your digital footprints are going to catch up with you. Colleges will look for you, possibly employers will check you out, and the military and armed forces will also track your online identity.

So you’ve already made a couple of mistakes. Now you know… but you still have those old posts up there somewhere on the world wide web. You don’t want these to come back and haunt you? Here are some tips to clean up your digital identity.

1. Google Search yourself
Logout off of all your accounts if you are logged in on your web browser (emails, facebook, twitter, anything else that you have an account for). After this just type in your name in Google and check what comes up. If there’s something there that you’re surprised to see, or that you wish wasn’t up there you may be able to do something about it.

2. Facebook Privacy Settings
If you are able to see a link to your facebook account when you google your name, your privacy settings may not be as strong as one may desire. If you are under 18, your facebook profile shouldn’t come up on the web. Facebook automatically sets profiles of minors to at least a “friends of friends” privacy setting. This means that at the max, only friends of friends of you will be able to see what you post, send you a message or poke you.

If you still see your facebook account pop up when you search your name, this is probably because you lied about your age when you created your facebook account in order to be eligible to make one. (Facebook is only open to users 14 and up, to evade this many kids lie about their birth date). So now, Facebook thinks you are an adult and doesn’t feel the need to protect you.

  1. To change your age on facebook, navigate to your profile,  and click on “update info”
  2. Under the “Basic Info” section, there should be a “Birth Date” section. Enter your correct birth date
  3. Click Save

Now, even if you CAN’T see your facebook profile on a search engine (Google), your privacy settings still may not be as strong as you wish. If you navigate back to the “Privacy Settings” you will be able to select settings for each and every aspect of Facebook. You can select who you want viewing what you post (Friends, or Friends and Friends of Friends). You can even customize this section with specific names. The safest and most secure option would be to select “Just Friends” for all of the Privacy settings.

3. Look through your timeline
The new facebook timeline makes it easier than ever to look back at your old statuses, pictures, or posts of any kind. Simply take a little time to scroll through your timeline and delete or remove anything you don’t want there or find inappropriate now. It may not be too late to fix a mistake

4. Twitter
Twitter’s privacy settings are very simple. You’re either private or you’re public. Only two options. Either everyone in the world with internet access can see your tweets (they don’t even need to have a twitter account) or only selected people who you approve to follow can view your tweets.

To select your privacy settings on twitter

  • navigate to and log in with your twitter handle
  • click on the gear icon in the top right hand corner,
  • select “settings” from the dropdown menu
  • Scroll down until you see “Tweet Privacy”
  • Select “Protect my Tweets” if you want your tweets to be private and only viewed by selected followers. Keep it unchecked if you wish to remain Public
  • Scroll down and click save
  • Twitter will now prompt you for your password, enter it to confirm and save your settings

If you wanted to clean up your twitter act, it’s a good idea to start as soon as possible. If you are worried about specific incidents or tweets from the past it could be worth trying to find them and deleting them. But remember, once something has been on the internet… it will always be on the internet

5. Other Websites or Pages
You’ve stumbled upon another website or page that happens to feature your name and you don’t want it to.

Try contacting the site administrator. Most websites have a site administrator who runs the website and can post and remove to the site. The contact information is usually available at the bottom of web page or in a “contact us” area of the page. Tell them about your issue in a kind, polite manner and hopefully they will help you.

Remember, Anything you ever put on the internet, will stay on the internet. Deleting it may look like you removed it but in reality that post is still out there on the internet somewhere waiting to be found. Think before posting. Then think again, and then think one more time just to be sure. No matter what you look to do after high school (join the workforce, apply to college, or join the military) you can bet your digital identity will come into play. Most employers will look into a new candidate’s digital identity or history. It is however a myth, that even if you are private on twitter, or do have the strongest privacy settings on facebook employers or potential colleges can still get in and view your posts. Unless you happen to be friends on facebook with one of the people looking you up, they shouldn’t be able to view your profile if your settings are as strong as they can be. Same thing goes for twitter, unless you have approved them as a follower (if private) they can not see what you tweet.

Reppler, a social service tool aimed at helping manage digital identities, conducted surveys with multiple employers on this topic. Here are the results:ImageImageImage

Images from:


6 thoughts on “Cleaning Up Your Digital Identity: A Student’s Perspective

  1. Another great tool is I allowed socioclean to check my facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn profiles. It searched both pictures and words of me and my connections and gave me a grade A – F (I got an A).

    There were a few oddities socioclean found. I was given a link to them and then could remove them or keep them. I un-linked from a LinkedIn contact, removed one Facebook update, and decided to keep another picture.

    Worth checking out! 🙂

  2. Pingback: OK, Winter, I Know You’re Out There! | Principal's Update

  3. Pingback: Mr. Kirsch's ICT Class Blog | Cleaning Up Your Digital Identity: A Student’s Perspective

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