The new year is coming up, a year filled with new opportunities, fresh hope and exciting prospects. It’s a time to look ahead and not be held back by what you’ve done. So, before the year ends, take the time to examine your digital presence and clean up your old connections and your dusty, old content.
Dump Toxic Followers
Over the years, you’ve probably picked up plenty of followers and connections across your various social media platforms. They won’t all have been positive. You might have added people you barely know to your personal Facebook page, engaged with trolls on Twitter, or attracted unpleasant comments next to your Instagram posts.
Social media shouldn’t work that way. You should have a personal Facebook page that keeps you in touch with the people you really know, and you should have a separate business page that lets you connect with people who support your business.
The people who follow you on Twitter and who you follow on the platform should be people who make your life better, not angrier. And the images and stories you see on Instagram should enrich your life, not inject it with envy.
This step is simple. Write a post on Facebook stating that your contact list has become too long to be useful. You can blame Facebook’s algorithm if you want. Tell people that you’re deleting everyone who isn’t a close friend or relative, and tell everyone else that they can follow your business page if they want. Then review your contact list and cut out anyone you don’t need.
On Twitter, you can also mute people if you think they might be offended by an unfollow, but block anyone who brings negativity to your page. Social media should push you forward. If anyone there holds you back, let them go.
Delete Old Posts
The same goes for content. If you’ve posted something on social media that you’ve regretted, you’re not alone. The press is filled now with reports exposing public officials who wrote something 20 years ago that people now find offensive. Any angry, old posts you made back at the start of social media are still online. You might have forgotten all about them but they’re available to anyone to find if motivated.
This is the time to make sure that you find them first. This will take a little longer than cleaning up your connections, especially if you’re a regular online contributor. Scroll down to the start of your social media posts, and delete anything that could give you problems.
Secure Your Email
If the media isn’t reporting about old social media posts, it’s announcing data breaches. Just recently, hackers stole the personal information of 218 million Zynga players and 4.6 million DoorDash customers. Companies should inform customers when their details have been compromised but if you missed the announcement—or ignored it—now is a good time to make sure that all your passwords are secure.
- HaveIBeenPwned.com is run by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director. It keeps track of breached accounts. Type in your email address, and it will tell you whether it appears in any hacked database. You can then delete your email address from that account or change the password. And if you’ve used the same password on other accounts, change those passwords too.
Delete Your Unused Accounts
When you check whether your email address has been compromised, you might find that you didn’t even know your details were in that database. You’ve probably registered for all sorts of services over the years, most of which you’ve now forgotten. Those companies still have your email address, your password, and a host of other details about you, including permission to send you messages.
If you’re no longer using those accounts, delete them.
Registering at Deseat.me will give you an opportunity to unregister at lots of different sites at the same time. It will give you a list all the accounts associated with your email address. You’ll be able to delete or request removal at the click of a button.
A bigger challenge is changing how you appear in Google search results. When someone tosses your name into Google, they’ll see events from your life in an order generated by Google’s algorithm. That could mean that incidents in your past that are no longer relevant and which you might not want publicized could be at the top of the search results while your current activities are buried at the bottom.
People in the EU can apply to Google to have those old links removed by completing a form. Google doesn’t have to comply, but it must at least consider removing links to information that might be inaccurate or irrelevant.
Since 2014, the company has removed 1.3 million links from its search results, fulfilling about 45 percent of applications. Examples described in the company’s Transparency Report have included links to reports of criminal convictions, legal disputes, and the private addresses of politicians. But the law only applies in the EU.
People outside the EU should consider reputation management services. These are companies that fill the Web with rival content to push unwanted search results down the page. It’s a big move and not always worthwhile. You can always produce your own fresh content but above all, you can do your own forgetting: stop thinking about any mistakes you’ve made in the past and look forward to the opportunities coming up in the new year.
About Joel Comm
As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products, and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.
Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.
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