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Facebook aging challenge got us thinking about how to clear history on social media

Posted at 11:42 AM, Jan 22, 2019

DENVER — Most people like their digital footprint to showcase the best version of themselves, but that's not always what ends up happening. Have you ever stopped to think about everything you've posted on social media?

The recent popularity of Facebook's 10-year aging challenge has dug up old, embarrassing memories for many people. If you're not familiar with the challenge, users post a current photo of themselves side-by-side with an image from 10 years ago. If you're going through all those old posts and photos and don't like what you see, there is a way to get rid of all of it. Or, most of it.

"You go all the way back 10 years ago and you see what your were posting and it’s like you’re a completely different person," said David Iwane, a social media influencer.

Iwane takes hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures before settling on the right one to share with his 28,500 followers on Instagram. He may analyze his posts a lot more than most of us, but his advice is simple.

“I post my favorite photos — the photos that I know I’ll always love," he said.

His girlfriend, Natali Andrade, has also gained a large following by posting pictures of their adventures around Colorado and across the United States. Before Andrade posts a picture, it has to meet her standards, she said.

“Can you live with it being out there forever?" she said.

Director of Digital Engagement at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Matt Kaskavitch said what's posted on the internet is written in ink, not pencil. We asked him if it's ever really possible to clear or erase content.

“Yes and no," he said. "It does go away but because of the way of the internet and the way things work with search engines they’re always looking for content and archiving it and databasing it in places. So, does it ever truly go away? It’s very, very difficult."

Tips for improving your digital footprint:

  • Create your own website using your real name and content you actually want people to see. You can link your social media pages to that site.
  • Update your LinkedIn page, it will show up when someone searches your name in Google.
  • If you have the time, go through and clean up previous Facebook posts. You can delete old posts or change the privacy setting.

Kaskavitch and CU professor Casey Fiesler have similar advice when it comes to hiding unwanted posts. Their idea? Bury the unflattering posts.

Fiesler said this may seem counter-intuitive but the best thing you can do is create more content about yourself, as long as that content is positive.

"I think the best thing people can do is have control over what is most prominent about them online," she said.