Admit it: you have, from time to time, glanced at your own profile. I don’t care what social network you frequent – whether you’re a tweet addict or spend your life on Facebook, whether you Instagram every part of your day or Tumblr down the rabbit hole into Internet oblivion, you have definitely clicked on your own profile icon and taken a peek.
There’s no shame in it. It is almost exactly like looking in a mirror … except it would be really weird if you were sitting on your couch or at your desk engaging in normal life activities like watching TV, working, talking to friends, or eating while staring at yourself in a hand mirror. But that’s what we do with the Internet, just go about our lives while staring into a self-portrait.
This heightened self-awareness (maybe just self-association, I’d argue some of us are less aware thanks to social media) should mean from time to time your mind is varying degrees of boggled at the sheer amount of personal information and content you’ve amassed. If you could physically make a pile of all the things you’ve posted and uploaded, it would probably be embarrassing.
That’s the beauty and bane of digital: It’s all easily collected, but … it’s all easily collected. And this means that like the attic full of memories and mementos, sometimes you have to clean out the junk – starting with the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Facebook is arguably the easiest and most necessarily social profile for you to dig through. While you probably pouted or raged about the Timeline, it’s year toggle on the sidebar means it’s incredibly simple to go backward in time and clean things up.
Of course, this means it’s also really easy for other people to check out what you were doing in 2003 … so there’s much impetus to get thee to a Timeline and get things in order.
So how do you decide what stays and what goes? A few questions you should ask yourself about the unearthed posts you’re about to find?
- Are you still friends with the person that posted it? I don’t know about you, but inane questions and comments from my high school boyfriend don’t really make the cut.
- Do those jokes make sense anymore, or do they now sound vaguely threatening? Anything that was halfway funny that one night when you were convinced someone in the library was following you and your friends just sounds creepy now.
- Are the photos you uploaded years ago such bad quality you’re embarrassed? In many cases, yes. If the memories are good ones, then keep. A few examples of what you can absolutely delete.
- Are drunk are you in that picture? Visibly so? Bye … bye picture!
- Any angsty pining? Please delete it. And be momentarily sad for broken-hearted, Dashboard Confessional-listening, 19-year-old you. Seriously, some of us used to think of Facebook as a diary – I have so many updates that read, “Molly is eating cereal and then going to the gym.” Why?! Not worth it, kid. Get out of here.
Yes, Facebook has a slew of privacy options, but if you know yourself well enough to know you’re not going to use them correctly (or at all), or know there’s a possibility that a family member or employer might make it into the wrong group, then let’s just part ways with some of this, shall we?
After using the sidebar toggle, be sure to hit up all the tabs under your name: About, Photos, Friends and More. Personally, I forgot that when I wrote my About section, I was 18 and the worst (saying you work at someone’s mom’s house doesn’t stay funny, especially in a post-Graph Search world).
Also, Likes. If you Liked everyone’s stupid band in college or horrible groups like “I love to spoon!” just … you know. Use your best judgment.
When it comes to Photos, you pretty much did the rewind, but be sure to check out your own albums, because there are likely some untagged moments in there that don’t need to be documented.
Now onto apps – this is really the last pivotal stop. Hit up the News Feed, and choose apps. Still have that BangWithFriends app installed from your momentary interest in random hookups? Did you ever think one of those “see who’s looking at your profile!” apps was real? Get rid of it. Clean it up and out.
Lastly, if you’re worried the manual scrape didn’t catch everything, install SimpleWash and let the automatic mode go to town. While a DIY approach is probably safest, it’s not a bad idea to go over things with this type of tool afterward.
If you’re truly desperate and need a clean slate, here it is: Facebook Scrubber. Say goodbye to your Wall.
Phew. OK, I know that was tough – but you’re through the worst of it! Facebook is by far, for the majority of us, the place we’ve deposited our digital memories. It’s all downhill from here.
Tweeting is a weird, weird thing, and it’s weirder yet when you don’t have any followers, which originally was the case for many of us. I think I held steady at 10 followers for about the first year of use – meaning I was just talking to myself about inane nothings.
Twitter doesn’t give you nearly as many features as Facebook does for assessing your data. The first third party tool you should make ample use of is AllMyTweets. This simple site quickly generates a page of – you guessed it – all your tweets. Actually, that’s false … just your last 3,200 tweets, which is the limit Twitter will return. For some of your, this might be enough to get near the beginning. For others, not so much.
If you want or need the real thing, you can request your Twitter archive. Head to settings, and hit the archive link. It will be email to you for download. Now when I said the previous tool was an assault on the eyes … well this makes it look like a damn masterpiece. You know what it is about a spreadsheet that really just grabs my attention? Absolutely nothing.
Still, there they are, plain as day: Your tweets. Perhaps you tweeted about how much you hated a political figure or in a drunken haste confessed your love for a now-colleague … well if anything’s too far back, you’re in luck. No one else can dig it up either – seriously, I tried a search with the exact phrasing of an old tweet with my handle and Google’s got nothing.
But if there’s something within the last 3,200 tweets, then by all means, go back and delete.
Next, you should take stock of who you’re following – anyone done anything super messed up recently? Cut ‘em lose. Maybe you want to know who’s unfollowing you? ManageFlitter has your back. Maybe you’ve got a spiteful streak and want to rid yourself of the non-follow-back types – check out Tweepi (which also helps wipe out the inactives following you) or TwitCleaner.
And if you’re just generally a little scared of what might be in your personal stream of tweets, sign up for TweetEraser and you can mass delete using its filter feature.
Last but definitely not least, head over to your settings and check out what apps you’ve given permission to – and make sure you’re OK with what you see.
OK, seriously, things are getting easier and easier here. We’re heading into the home stretch. Instagram hasn’t been around nearly as long as Twitter and Facebook and being strictly photos means there’s less that needs cleaning up. But don’t stop now, we have to keep chugging along.
First things first: Spambots are starting to hit up Instagram in droves and you might have quite a few following you that you’re unwittingly following. If you want to clean ‘em out, install InstaFeedCleaner and let the app do its work. IGExcorcist is another great tool for getting rid of followers you don’t want en masse.
And as always, head to your Instagram profile (via Web) and check out what applications you’ve given access to.
As far as a manual look-see goes, the rules mentioned for Facebook apply: Drunken photos? Nudity? Any apparent racism? Delete. Delete now.
It’s just a start of course: If you really want to scrub up your entire Web persona, you need to make the rounds – but all of the lessons learned here will apply. So go forth, friends, and try and put your best (virtual) face forward. Godspeed.