Increasing social transparency is a symptom of the new internet, and it’s something you’re going to have to manage. You don’t want grandma finding your nsfw last night’s kegger blog when she’s looking for your high school pictures on the Google machine, do you? Thought not.
Powerful though Google may be, it’s not as omnipotent as you probably have been lead to believe. There are relatively easy and quick fixes and practices you can effect in order to partially, or maybe fully ungoogle yourself. Get it done before grandma finds you.
Google yourself regularly
It’s a myth that this causes your palms to grow hair, so don’t worry. This first step, though, might be your only step. If you’ve got a common name like Shannon Smith, there’s a good chance you’re not this Shannon Smith (unless you are). If your name is more unique, though, you’ll still want to search for your name to find out which instances of it are popping up. Different sites will require different tactics to obscure – your Facebook page can be hidden just by turning it private (do this if you haven’t, noob), but www.yournamehere.com is a little more tricky.
Just add robots
Adding robots is a recipe for making anything better. But, in this case, it is a somewhat less exciting type of robot we’re referring to. If a personal site, like your name here dot com, is your problem, then you’ll want to add robot HTML tags to the source code. This will hide any content you don’t want searched by Google. If this is something you want to employ, add the following tag in the <head> section of the page in question: <meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow" />
If the site in question isn’t operated by you, you can often contact an administrator of that site and request that either 1) the content be removed or 2) they obscure the content using the above method, or a method of their choosing.
Create a fake you
And stand in its shadow. Most people don’t get past the first page or two of a search engine’s results, so if you can push the results that feature the real you back a few pages, you’ll cut out a lot of the lookeeloos. You can do this a number of ways, but one of the most fun and creative is to make up a new you to take your spot on the front page. Start a gmail account, Facebook account, Twitter, Flickr and maybe even something ridiculous like Myspace of Friendster. Use your name, but make the persona a dottering old curmudgeon who loves whittling and yelling at kids on his lawn. Unless, of course, that’s you. Then make yourself into a handsome young writer in L.A. working for a men’s lifestyle site. Add pictures and content to all of the accounts – the more content there is in them, the more there is for Google to crawl and index. This, combined with keeping your real profiles pared down and private should push the real you to the back of the searchable crowd.
Change your (user)name
If you use the same username for your instant messaging client, your Digg profile, your flickr account, and any number of other social sites, you may have a problem. This is especially true if that name is a close approximation of your name in meatspace. Create and use a username that doesn’t allude to your real life life, and create separate usernames for all your accounts. It doesn’t take an expert internet stalker to find accounts under the same name across several popular sites, so protect yourself by diversifying your username portfolio.