At some point, we all need a fresh start. Like a new haircut. This applies to our online presence too. Why? Because it’s easy to stop managing the footprints we leave online, and convenient to let them become a mess. Unfortunately, however, this mess doesn’t clean itself after you.
So take a moment to think about your digital footprint. Think about the number of accounts you have, what email subscriptions you sign up for, what sites you visit frequently, what forums or articles you comment on, what photos you upload, and anything else that comes to mind. Now think about these things and what they were in the late 1990’s, in 2005, and what they are now. Together, they compile the traces of ourselves that we leave behind on the web. From the past, present and of course, in the future. It’s rather overwhelming.
Chances are, too, there are plenty of things you want to get rid of. Things that you have been meaning to getting around to, but simply haven’t. Not only for personal reasons, e.g., embarrassing/inappropriate content of yourself, but mostly just to start fresh. Like taking a hot shower after a long day. A thorough cleanse always makes you feel that much better.
Here’s a few suggestions on how to get started:
If you’re serious about a proper clean-up, you need to plan ahead. Know what you want to delete and modify ahead of time. And don’t rush this thought process either. Think across the board, in terms of every aspect of the web you use and have used before. Not only this year but five years ago and everything in between. Also, don’t limit yourself to one platform. Of course, some platforms (most likely email and social media) will be the areas of most concern because they require the most interaction, but they’re not the only ones that require our personal information. Think subscriptions, online purchases, advertisements and so on. Once you’ve sorted out what needs work, then you can map out what you want to do: whether it’s to remove unwanted notifications, posts or photos, or even to delete entire accounts. Just remember, how you handle your digital footprint is entirely up to you. You and only you get to decide what you prioritize and what you want available. That’s the best part, really.
2– Be Realistic
Some things, you’ll find you don’t want to cleanse or get rid of for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because you’re nostalgic about your MySpace profile or your old blog you haven’t updated in 6 years. Or maybe it’s because you’re afraid you’ll offend someone by de-tagging an unwanted photo they posted of you. In circumstances like these, you really need to suck it up and do what you need to do. From personal experience, all I can say is that though it may hurt a little, you won’t regret it. Within a few weeks or even days, you’ll wonder why you were hesitant to begin with. The point of a digital cleanse is to feel like you’ve lifted a significant weight off of your shoulders. This won’t occur if you’re going to convince yourself to delay a digital cleanse again or if you prevent your natural, good instincts from influencing your decisions.
3– Take Notice of Every Platform’s Policies
Even if you’ve been paying attention to the news and know there have been recent outrages over Facebook’s privacy policies, you may forget to check them yourself. This is extremely important. Every portal on the web that collects information from us uses it in different ways. Some use our data to give to other third parties and some use it simply for their own interests. Whatever the case may be, I highly recommend becoming familiar with how your information is used, once collected. It’s required to be stated somewhere, even if it’s only in small print. And not only on Facebook, but everywhere else too. If you’re a smartphone user, keep an eye on your system’s network and privacy controls as well as the requirements needed to download or update applications. In the long run, your increased awareness will help you make smarter choices in the future.
4-Stop Complaining & Get Moving
So, if you find yourself itching to give your digital footprint a bath from reading this so far, I suggest you get to it. With as few delays as possible. It may seem complicated, annoying and time consuming, but that’s no excuse (especially when it comes to gritting our teeth and going through our dreaded email inboxes). It’s all of these things, I won’t lie, but it’s a process that is as necessary as taking a shower in the real world. We all need a good cleansing from time to time– both on and offline. Offline much more frequently, I may point out. To help renew our selves, both physically and mentally.