How to Prevent a New Year’s Eve Tech Hangover

From embarrassing photos to lost phones to inebriated texting, learn how to prevent tech-related regrets in the first hours of 2012.

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You may only have blurred memories of New Year’s Eve, but your friends will be able to see everything crystal clear thanks to a little website called Facebook. Think a regular hangover’s bad? Imagine how you’ll feel waking up with a splitting headache only to discover you’ve lost your phone and there are 29 comments under a photo of you spraying cheap champagne while singing ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”

Yeah, not exactly how you wanted to start 2012. Save yourself the trouble by taking a few tech-savvy precautions before heading out on Saturday night.

(MORE: Looking Forward to 2012: Apple TV, iPhone 5 and Goodnight PCs)

Problem: Embarrassing Photos

There’s a pretty simple way to make sure you don’t wake up Sunday morning with a profile full of unflattering party photos: Turn on the option to review photos you’re tagged in before they go on your profile or Timeline (find step-by-step instructions here). Simple, yes, but it’s something many people forget to do, since Facebook’s tends to make everything opt-out, putting the onus for privacy on you.

For Google +, you’ll want to go to the “Profile” tab, then to “Photos” and hit the blue “Edit Profile” button. From there, just X-out all of the Circles and individuals “whose tags of you are automatically approved to link to your profile” and there you go — you now have the power to manually approve all tags before they’re attached to photos.

Remember, none of this will stop a friend from putting up an untagged photo of you on the Internet; you’ll have to ask them nicely, file a formal complaint to Facebook or Google, or have your face surgically removed like John Travolta in Face/Off.

Problem: Lost or Stolen Phone

Let’s face it — there’s a good chance you’re going to lose your phone on New Year’s Eve. First, and I can’t stress this enough, lock your phone. Even though it takes five seconds to set up, 54% of smartphone owners don’t lock their phones with a password, leaving their email accounts and mobile banking and shopping apps vulnerable to thieves.

The next step you should take is to install a security and phone-finding app like MobileDefense, FindMyDroidFind My iPhone or WaveSecure. The prices and features vary, but the main idea is the same: use GPS to locate your lost or stolen phone. Some make your phone ring regardless of whether it’s on vibrate or not, others remotely wipe your phone’s data; they’re all better than nothing.

Even with one of these apps installed, chances are that you won’t end up bursting into the thief’s home like Jack Bauer and retrieving your stolen phone. That’s why it’s never too late to sign up for insurance for your smartphone (usually around $6.99 per month). Digging out your old phone from your closet just in case you need an emergency replacement is never a bad idea either.

Problem: Drunk Texts, Tweets and Emails

Champagne is the number one cause of slurred tweets and incoherent overtures to ex-girlfriends. (Note: Please do not fact-check this.) Luckily, there are several amusing apps out there designed to stop you from making a fool of yourself over the phone and online.

Textalyzer for the iPhone forces you to play a series of long games if you attempt to text someone on your “forbidden list.” Social Media Sobriety Test stops you from tweeting or updating your Facebook status while sauced. Mail Goggles, already available by going through Settings > Labs on your Gmail account, will present you with a drunk’s worst nightmare when you try to email someone past a certain time — math problems. Sure, most of these fall into the “clever jokes” category, but it doesn’t hurt to have a mental reminder that’ll make you stop and think before you write something you’ll regret.

Of course, you could just avoid all of this and do the responsible thing by drinking in moderation.

MORE: Why Buying a Cheap Smartphone Isn’t So Dumb Anymore

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