6 Ways to Clean Up Your Social Media Before College

In the age of social media, it is no secret that we are more connected than ever before. All millennials are used to being warned about keeping their social media pages “clean,” but just how should you go about doing so? Luckily, the challenge is not too difficult and we’ve consulted with Jade McDermott, a social media specialist at Bearly Marketing to find out how to clean up all of your social media pages before college:

1. Make sure your pictures say something positive

Believe us, ladies––we know how tempting it can be to post anything and everything on social media. But, a good piece of advice is to make sure every image you post represents something good about you!

Jade believes millennials should shy away from posting anything related to partying, drinking and drug usage, nudity, profanity and excess negativity. "Posting this type of content can create a negative reflection of you and can harm your chances of getting into certain colleges, internships and jobs," she says.

A good rule to live by is that if you have to contemplate posting it, you probably shouldn’t. While we have all done (and taken pictures of) some questionable things in life, posting such things on your Facebook or Instagram is potentially harmful to your future. 

2. Watch your language

This one goes without saying, but it is definitely worth repeating. You never know who’s scrolling through your social media pages these days, so shy away from foul language. Profanity––from racism, to sexism, to homophobia, to explicit language––that you may think is a joke can cause viewers to reconsider the great person you probably are!

Jade warns pre-collegiettes that this kind of language can harm your reputation even if you are a great individual. "You may be an honor student with a good heart, but for those who don't know you personally, all they are gathering as an impression for you is what they see online," she says. "By using profanity, you can appear immature, unpolished and unprofessional." We could not agree more!

3. Balance personal and professional

Social media background checks have gained extreme prominence in the past decade. Seriously, over 45 percent of employers admit checking out their candidates on social media. The way you behave online plays a big factor in how people judge your potential in the classroom (and eventually, the workplace).

But wait, you're safe if you set your profile to private, right? According to Jade, not so much. "Keep in mind that anyone can look at your social media profiles, even if they are set to private," she says. "Many corporations (even small businesses) have access to tools and programs that can easily get around privacy settings." This is definitely beneficial to know.

By keeping your online content and messaging clean and positive, you can share aspects of your personal life without worry.  Jade says, "As long as you refrain from using profanity and posting anything vulgar or too negative, you can easily maintain a professional and personal presence."

Although it may feel otherwise, you really do not need to post all the details of your personal life on the Internet. Trust us––a few years down the road, you will cringe at some of the things you posted! Post the highlights of your life, but leave some of the details to the imagination.

Related: 11 Social Media Updates You Need to Make While Job Hunting

4. Share content that is relevant to your area of study

You may still be undecided about what you want to do in life, but honing in on and exploring your interests is a great way to utilize the Web. It goes without saying, but social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn are great sources for networking (at any age)! It is never too early to get started on making a name for yourself––especially in fields like communications or business.

Jade is a big supporter of this. "By posting and interacting with content that is relevant to your field of study or work, you are exuding passion, interest and knowledge in that subject," she says. "It is a great way to showcase your professionalism and is great for increasing your online network within your field." Networking is an essential part of making a name for yourself in any industry, and social media is a great tool for doing it!

5. Don’t post about alcohol or drug use

Just don’t do it. Literally. Ever. In no way is this ever a good idea. Obviously, the college lifestyle comes with a lot of temptation (especially in your younger years). However, no matter how tempting it may seem to post a “funny” picture now, the repercussions will absolutely not be worth it later.

In the digital age, you are your own brand. "When you post alcohol and drug usage online, you are essentially harming your image and your brand," Jade says. "By posting photos of you wasted, you are creating a negative image of yourself and the damage is much worse if you are underage." You will probably regret it later, anyway.

Some high schoolers may not think their online image is something to be too worried about, but according to Jade, they should rethink this. "I would explain [to these people] that they are creating a negative image of themselves and although they may not see it as a big deal, employers and colleges DO," she says. "Posting such content can (and often does) prevent you from getting into your dream college and/or your dream job." It is truly not worth the risk.

6. Cut down your “Friends” list

In high school, it was probably cool to be friends with as many people as possible on your social media profiles. However, this will have little benefit in your collegiette life. In fact, it will probably become more of an annoyance than anything else.

Isabel Calkins, a sophomore at New York University, wanted to make sure her online friends were her actual friends. “Before college, I unfriended literally every single person I did not know,” she says. “Then, once that was done I did the same with people I knew but had never talked to, like people in older grades or friends of siblings, etc. It’s not that I was posting inappropriate things but I just wanted a fresh start.”

Jade reminds pre-collegiettes that social media is a powerful tool when it comes to both school and work, so you should monitor who you are connecting with. "By maintaining relationships and connections, you can open doors and create opportunities for yourself and others," she says. "When you have too many friends, your network may be oversaturated and creating these networking opportunities can be more difficult."

What is Jade's biggest piece of advice for social media usage? Remember the two Ps: professionalism and positivity. "Employers and colleges are very particular about who they recruit and associate with them," she says. "At the end of the day, it is simply not worth tainting your image on social media."

We are the digital generation, so our knowledge and use of social media is ever-changing. However, there are definitely steps to shape your online profiles in a way that will benefit you. Before college, clean up those pages––it is never too early to plan for your future!