The internet is pretty amazing. But it can be a double-edged sword, thanks in part to social media.
Just think about it: Social media can keep people living thousands of miles apart connected. But the sites also make it easy to accidentally connect with strangers, future employers and anyone else you don’t necessarily want to let into your private life.
Fortunately, there is a way to keep your social accounts private. And we’re about to break it down by social site.
By default, your tweets are public. Which means any user on the site will be able to see the tweet and search engines can index the tweets — in other words, they’ll show up in search results.
Protecting your tweets from unwanted readers can be done in your account settings.
On desktop computers, look in the Security and Privacy section. There will be an option labeled Protect my Tweets. Check the box and save your changes to make your tweets private.
On iOS and Android devices, Protect my Tweets is in settings under Privacy and Safety.
Once the change is made, the only people who will be able to view your activity are your followers. You’ll just have to remember to approve or deny any follower requests.
In the future, if you decide to unprotect your tweets by making your account public again, all of your previously protected tweets will become public.
Similar to Twitter, Instagram will make accounts public by default.
When your account is public, any posted images and videos can be found by other Instagram users through the app’s search and explore tab. Search engines like Google are not allowed to index your posts, but your account page can still be found in search results.
Switching over to a private account can be done by going to your profile page on iOS or Android and tapping the settings icon. Look for a toggle labeled Private Account and switch it on.
Once your account is private, you’ll have to approve any follow requests. Those requests will appear in your activity menu — the same place where Instagram lets you know when people like or comment on your posts.
After switching to a private account, the best way to hide previously public posts from a specific follower is to block that user’s profile, according to Instagram. Blocking an account is also the best way to stop someone from sending you unwanted direct messages.
Many people will link their Instagram accounts to other social networks. If you’re one of them, remember that you’ll have to privatize any linked accounts your posts go to as well.
For example, if your Instagram is locked down but you publish a photo from Instagram to Facebook — and your Facebook account isn’t private — then anyone on the internet will still be able to see the image.
On that note, Facebook is a bit more tricky to make private.
First, you’ll want to find out what your public profile looks like — this is what people who are not your friends will see when they land on your profile. Do this by navigating to your profile page on a desktop computer. On top of your cover photo, to the right of the Activity Log, you should see a block with three dots — click it. In a drop-down menu, click the option to View As...
Next, Facebook will show you your public profile. See anything you don’t want to show up? Depending on what you see that you want to be hidden, there are a few different options.
You can choose to hide individual posts or photos by going to that content and selecting the arrow pointing down — it’s usually located next to the post’s timestamp. Choosing Friends will make the post only visible to friends, and Only Me will hide the post from everyone.
But let’s say there are a lot of posts you’d rather keep private.
I’ve got some bad news for you: There’s no easy way to make every old post private. Your best option is to go into your account settings, click the Privacy tab and select Limit Past Posts. Doing this makes the posts more difficult to find, but it does not wipe the content from the internet.
To make sure future posts are only shown to a more limited group of people, go to Home. Where you’d normally start to type a status update, there will be an arrow down where you can determine who will see the new post. Whatever you select will be the new default for status updates.
Facebook has made all accounts easily searchable by Bing, Google and the rest. To make sure your account isn’t indexed, go back to your settings. Under Privacy, uncheck the box with the question “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?” You do not want to allow the search engines to link to your profile.
While you’re tweaking privacy settings, click the settings tab for Apps. There you can make sure you’re not giving away any personal data to untrustworthy apps or apps you aren’t using anymore.
The disappearing messaging service Snapchat may seem super private, but it’s really not — some have found that out the hard way.
A couple of quick things to keep in mind before we get to the part about making your account private: Snaps can be saved by the people who receive them, and they can be screen-grabbed, too. Snaps can also be replayed once by recipients.
Snapchat will also keep snaps sent to individuals for up to 30 days before deleting them if the recipient hasn’t gotten around to playing them yet.
Lastly, snaps that are added to your story expire after 24 hours but can be replayed an unlimited number of times. Though, you do have the option to delete a snap before 24 hours have passed.
If you want to limit the people who can see your snaps, tap the ghost on Snapchat’s main screen. This takes you to your account page. Tap the gear icon to get to settings.
Under the Who Can... section heading, you can tweak who is able to contact you, who can see your story and who will be able to find your account using Quick Add.
It’s worth keeping in mind — and this goes for any social media site — that if you’re worried about someone seeing what you share, maybe you shouldn’t be sharing it in the first place.