Think before you tweet

It started with Zoella. Then Alfie got hauled in. New Gay Times editor Josh Rivers lost his job over it. And now Jack Maynard has been forced to leave the jungle.

What happens on the internet stays on the internet – and then the press get their paws on it, and the world implodes.

Yep, social media posts made years ago are – quite rightly – changing our opinions of public figures left, right and centre, and they’re getting into a lot of trouble as a result. And we get the feeling that over the last couple of weeks, celebs everywhere have been delving through their social media past to hide anything remotely incriminating – or getting their assistants to do it in between Starbucks runs anyway.

Racist, homophobic, sizist tweets are surfacing, showing that the people we look up to might not always have been so squeaky clean – and yes, they were much younger at the time. No, they don’t believe those things any more. But does that mean it was OK for them to say these things in the first place?

Well, no. Because here’s a little thing we’ve been being told since the internet came into our lives, when we were chatting on MSN, posting on MySpace and joining fan forums – be careful what you put out there.

Conversations can be screen shotted. Tweets saved away. Web pages archived and accessed using the likes of the Wayback Machine. Anything you put down in writing can come back to haunt you.

And it doesn’t only matter if you’re famous. Anything you put in the public domain can and will follow you. All it takes is for the admissions officer at your dream uni to give you a Google, for that recruiter to look up your Facebook, and see photos and posts and worse they’d never, ever want to see. And suddenly something you said or did five years ago has changed your life.

So how can you avoid the fate of Zoella? We’ve got a few tips.

Lock it down

It’s not as fun when the world and their auntie can’t like your posts – but honestly? Going private can spare you a lot of drama. If you have to get those likes, consider having a private profile for sharing with your closest pals, and a public profile for PG content.

The mum test

Before you post anything publicly online, ask yourself, ‘What would my mum think?’ If she’d be outraged, don’t post it.

Go into the archives

Depending on how active you are on social media, this could take a while. But delve into your past and see what you’ve posted. Anything remotely dodgy – we’re talking racism, homophobia, bigotry or anything else that’d horrify your parents – hit delete.

Rethink your profile photo

Even if your profile is locked, have a look at how the visible bits appear to the outside world. We’re talking cover photos, public bios, your profile pic – make it employer-friendly.

Look at your friends list

Have a scroll through your friends and followers, and the people you follow and ask yourself – does that make me look good?

Turn on timeline approval

On Facebook, change your settings so you have to approve any posts your pals tag you in. It’ll save you a lot of embarrassment when that awful photo of you in a very compromising position appears. Also de-tag any pictures that make you look bad.

Change your name

If you don’t want to be found, make yourself un-findable. Change. Your. Name. Use your middle name rather than your last name. Make up a totally different identity. It’s a great way to get a little privacy and ensure you can’t be judged on your social media.

If in doubt – don’t post

Here’s a secret – you don’t have to snap, instagram or tweet every thought you have. So don’t. If we’ve learned anything from our friends in celeb land, it’s that sometimes your thoughts don’t matter – in fact, they can be downright offensive. And it could be time for us to log off and spend a little time with our friends in the real world. So put down your phone and arrange a coffee date. It’ll be great to catch up – and it definitely won’t get you into bother…

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