Going into the search, I'll be completely honest, I thought I would find basically everything about myself. Maybe the pendulum had swung so much to that side since I had grown up during the time when every adult was warning you 24/7 that whatever you post will be online forever. I remember my middle school bringing in a police officer to lecture us on our "permanent" internet profile. The idea was that nothing that we posted online would be able to be swept under the rug later in our lives when we applied to college and eventually jobs.
Upon one of my first searches, there was a website called "public voter records" and prior to clicking on it, I was sort of expecting my past votes to be public. That's how pessimistic I was toward my online data privacy.
Growing up, I was not one of the "cool" kids that were allowed access to Facebook in sixth grade (2011 when I first remember hearing about the website amongst friends). My parents were always conscious of my online profile. My father, being a police officer, was very uptight and concerned for my safety on these sites. My mother was more so concerned for my character, she was afraid of me posting dumb stuff (which I would later prove her right in that my judgement could be slightly off). I was also only allowed to use 2 social media sites at a time. In high school, I became intrigued with Twitter but was informed by my mother that it would cost me my Facebook or Instagram. So, that addition was halted until my college years.
Because of how I grew up, I have always had my accounts as private as possible. I limit my Facebook content only to be viewed by immediate friends, I have Instagram set to where accounts must request to follow me to see my content, and the same went for twitter until I deleted it this summer.
Yet even with all these privacy roadblocks, I still believed that I could be able to find just about all my posts on google with a little elbow grease and a high number of google searches. I thought my embarrassing content from my middle school years would be on display for the world to see. It's one of the reasons I have never really searched myself online like this, I searched my name in google a few years ago, as any bored high school student has done, but I know that I certainly didn't go as in-depth in my searching then as I did this time around.
Going into the search, I decided to use incognito mode through my Google Chrome browser so that it would be as close as possible to a search from someone that isn't me. I decided to go from vague searches to as detailed as possible. Examples include:
Seth Wickham Milford
Seth Nathaniel Robb Wickham Milford
Seth Nathaniel Robb Wickham Milford instagram
Seth Nathaniel Robb Wickham Milford instagram @seth_wick3
At first, my previous predictions seemed to be proved accurate, as the website "michiganresidentdatabase.com" basically told me my entire demographic picture. I found my birth year, family members, neighbors, voter id, address, school district, etc. All this without even having to pay a fee. All of this information was accurate and up to date. It even included the date I registered to vote.
As much as I expected to be online, I wasn't exactly happy with my findings.
The website also supposedly offered to reveal my "social profiles", "public records", "court records", "driving records", and "background reports" but when I clicked on these links, their claims seemed baseless as I was directed to fruitless spam websites.
My initial Google searches produced many images of myself, however, they were mostly from newspaper articles rather than social media, as I had expected. These articles were from the local newspapers describing wrestling meets and tournaments that I had competed in. However, there weren't really any social media profile pictures or any general social media pictures that I could find on google images.
This section is where I thought I would see more produced from the google searches.
My Instagram was an interesting case. I found my Instagram profile but it's private so I wasn't able to find any pictures that I had posted without logging into Instagram. The interesting thing though, is that other accounts I follow had pages on Instagram analytics websites such as "picucki" and "pictame" where my account was listed as a follower of theirs.
My Facebook was nowhere to be found in these searches, even when I clicked on the Facebook link "Seth Wickham accounts" my profile wasn't listed surprisingly. I was able to search for relatives on google, pull up their Facebook, and find pictures of me, but I found no direct photos from my account, nor my account itself.
Since my Twitter was deleted this summer, I had low expectations of finding anything from it at all. However, growing up they always said, "anything you post will be on the internet forever", or something to that extent. I couldn't find a trace of any tweet or my old account. Maybe HR departments have better search methods or programs that search better than the average googler, but I feel very secure that my deactivated twitter will have no effect on my future relations or my professional career.
I was surprised to find that my LinkedIn similar to my Facebook, was not produced from any of my Google searches. It actually made me reevaluate how private I would like that account to be, since prospective employers may have a hard time reaching me if it is so private. Because of this, I couldn't find any of my prior employment history anywhere, nor my educational background post-highschool.
In conclusion, I found that while you can find much of your past on the internet, for the most I was very surprised how much my actions had suppressed the info I could find. By making basically all of my social media accounts private, I made most of my direct content invisible from the basic google search. However, I found that I do have to be careful with my social media connections. Even if I don't keep much visible on my own page, it could be very easy to find out information about a person from their tangential connections.
For example, I was in the local paper numerous times for wrestling meets. If a person started there, they could find my teammates and friends, and probably find pictures of me and more of my information off of their less-protected pages. Also, those google searches pulled up accounts that I follow, showing my interests. So while the mantra "treat every post on social media as if it were permanent" still holds true, I now view it with an expanded look in terms of who I follow and how much I allow others to post about me.