How to Spring Clean Your Facebook Profile

Protect your privacy and put your best foot forward

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Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images 

Spring cleaning your Facebook profile may not be at the top of your to-do list, but it should be. Privacy issues are real and troublesome, and search engines make it easy for people and companies to find identifying information about you. Even if you aren't worried about privacy (you should be), you want to present the best about yourself in case a job recruiter or a potential love match is looking. Because you never know who may be searching, you should take control of the information they can find, and you don't have to wait until spring to do it.

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Update Your Facebook About Section

When was the last time you looked at the About section on your Facebook profile? If you can’t remember, then it is time to visit it. You might be surprised to see that your phone number and email address is publicly available. You can opt to delete it or make it visible to only you or only your friends. Remember that quote you found funny a few years ago? It hasn't aged well. Add, modify, or remove any information in the About section.

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Change Your Profile Picture or Cover Photo

The most obvious thing you can change on your Facebook page is your profile picture. A reduced version of it appears next to every Facebook post you make. Find a new picture or take one and upload it by hovering your cursor over your current profile image and clicking Update Profile Picture. Upload a new image or choose one of the decorative frames Facebook provides for use with your current image.

Changing your large cover photo also has a noticeable effect. Be fun and creative with your cover photo. Upgrade it the same way by hovering over the cover photo and clicking Update Cover Photo.

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Audit Your Posts

When you post to Facebook, what do you share? Are you always posting the same type of content or talking about the same things? Keep your posts fresh and interesting. Photo and video posts get more likes, comments, and shares than random status posts.

Be careful about what you post because there are some things you should never share on Facebook including your full birth date, relationship status, current location, your vacation plans, and personal information about your children, including their identity in photos.

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Check Your Privacy Settings

Who do you want to be able to see the information you share on Facebook? Facebook allows you to customize your privacy settings.  You can limit your posts to your Facebook friends, only yourself, or the public. You can also exempt selected friends from seeing your posts, or designate only a specific friend or friends to see it.

Click the arrow at the top of Facebook and select Settings. Choose Privacy and make your selection in the Your Activity section. 

This section also has an option you can use to limit the privacy of old posts. If you choose the Limit Past Posts button, the privacy setting for all old posts that were shared with the Public or with Friends of friends changes to Friends.

You can also control whether search engines outside of Facebook can link to your profile and turn off Facebook's Face Recognition capability in your settings.

Tip: In Settings, in the Public Posts category, click View your public timeline to see what strangers can see when they search for you on Facebook. If you aren't happy with what you see, tweak your settings until you are pleased with the result.

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Reorganize Your Friends

If your news feed is cluttered with information from people you are not closely connected to or interested in, it is time to re-categorize or get rid of some connections. There are two ways you can do this.

  • Look at the list of all your friends and change the settings person by person. You can add friends to lists, unfollow them, or designate them as See First in your news feed. This is the more thorough way to do it, but it is time-consuming if you have a lot of Facebook friends.
  • Another approach is to reorganize based on what appears in your news feed. For each post in your news feed, click the three-dot icon to bring up a menu where you can select to hide individual posts or see fewer like it. You can also snooze a person for 30 days or unfollow the friend, which doesn't unfriend them. 
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Assess Your Photos

Dealing with the photos you've posted on Facebook is the most time-consuming part of cleaning up your account. Use the Photo tab to review the photos you have uploaded to Facebook, and delete or hide any photos that might reflect poorly on you. Also, if a photo is blurry or hard to see, delete it.

You can only delete the photos you uploaded. If someone tags you in other pictures, you can remove the tag, which removes the photo from your Facebook page but not from the page of the person who tagged you. If you worry that you are looking at the only copy of a favorite image, download it. All these options (and others) are in the pencil icon menu on each photo.

In the Album view, you can choose which albums to make publicly available or hide. Only your current profile picture cannot be hidden.

You can change whether people are allowed to tag you in their images or opt to review any tags before they appear in the Timeline and Tagging settings.