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Posted at 1:25 PM ET, 02/25/2011

Add "digital makeover" to your weekend plans

By Jenna Johnson
Jenna Johnson

Today's guest blogger is Ilana Strauss, a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a regular contributor to Campus Overload. Ilana has interned at the Jerusalem Post and the Scripps-Howard Foundation. She also founded a humor magazine, deadbeathumor.com.

Traps are everywhere. They lie hidden in places thought to be safe, just waiting to sabotage unsuspecting college students. With the internet age, our information -- embarrassing, immature and even criminal -- is available for everyone with the ability to click "Search." Facebook and Google have made us prisoners of our own device.

ilana_strauss.jpgStudents who have a jobs or internships (or plan on getting them in the future) need to be prepared to clean their cyber slates.

That's why I've prepared this handy guide on giving yourself a digital makeover.

Step 1: Facebook
This is the big one. The millennium generation uses Facebook nonstop, and employers know it. The easiest way to avoid getting into trouble with Facebook is to delete your Facebook account. Right now.

Ha. Didn't think you'd go for that.

Okay, so now that we're being realistic, there are several ways to protect your account. You can look through all your material and make every potentially incriminating photo or post private -- even the ones where you were actually doing nothing wrong (employers are not going to know that you have orange juice in that red cup). To do this, you have to comb through your entire Facebook, editing the settings of each drunken wall post and dance party scene.

Alternatively, if you don't want to manually change everything, you can alter your settings to limit who can see your photos or wall posts. You can do this by clicking "Account," going to "Privacy Settings" and changing the settings. You may choose to be on the incredibly safe side and not let anyone see anything. Or you might choose to just let your friends (or selected friends) see information.

And let's face it - not every Facebook friend is a real friend. So comb through your friend list, deleting or at least putting on limited profile that man you met on vacation once or that girl you friended because you have the same unusual last name.

Step 2: Twitter
If you have a personal Twitter account that you use to share personal thoughts, you should make it private. Go to "Settings." Under "Account Options," look for the check box at the bottom of the screen that says "protect my updates." Check it and click save. This means that all posts you make from now on will be private - and you must approve any new followers. Old tweets might still be publicly searchable, though, so you may want to delete the problematic ones by clicking on the garbage bin that appears next to each tweet.

Step 3: Google
This is the hardest part. Future employers might search your name on Google and reach Web sites that feature you in an unflattering light. So Google yourself before they get the chance. Look for any harmful links that come up about you. Since there are literally millions of ways that might manifest, you'll have to work out what to do on your own. You might have to delete old forum accounts, email Web site managers and ask that your name be taken off or photos taken down.

With a little foresight, you can bypass cyber traps, navigating your way toward a bright future. Good luck!

By Jenna Johnson  | February 25, 2011; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Real World  | Tags:  University of Illinois  
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