Few would disagree that the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to sharing personal opinions and details online. For many, sharing too much information - often called oversharing - is a habit that can come with risks and penalties.
More often than not, sharing and oversharing on social media is harmless, however it can result in serious consequences. One inappropriate post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat can not only compromise your privacy and safety, but put you in a bad light, offend or harass those who view it, and even cost you your job.
Take a moment to consider how much you share online. If you share your innermost thoughts and feelings and reveal where (and when) you live, work, holiday and shop, your birth date and full name you’re not alone. Personal details such as these however don’t just help digital marketers fill your screen with ads, they can help scammers install viruses, steal your identity and access your bank account and predators harass you.
Aside from sharing personal details that compromise your privacy and safety, inappropriate and offensive social media posts can not only cost you your friends and job but be deemed unlawful and therefore have serious consequences. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) ‘social media postings can be against the law if they discriminate against, harass, bully or racially vilify a person’ and that an employer can be ‘held legally responsible for acts of discrimination or harassment that occur in the workplace or in connection with a person’s employment’ - and this includes social media activity. It's also worth noting that many employers and recruiters use social media as a background checking tool, which means inappropriate online activity can affect your career, while some use it to check whether their employees are actually unwell while on sick leave.
Tips to help you keep your online profile and activity appropriate and secure
- Privacy settings: Restrict who can view your profile and posts. By choosing 'Friends' only your friends can see your activity; by selecting ‘Public’ anyone can. When Friend and Follow requests, it is crucial you are cautious and be selective about who you accept.
- Install an anti-virus software: Ensure your emails and attachments, particularly from unknown sources, are scanned by an anti-virus software and always have your firewall on the highest setting to prevent predators from accessing your information.
- Never give out your personal, private details online: Providing information such as your full name, phone number, address, birth date, bank details and whereabouts simply makes scammers' and predators' lives easy and yours hard.
- Think twice before you post: If you’re unsure whether a post is appropriate or safe, ask a friend or family member – or ask yourself ‘would your mother or grandmother approve of it?’ If the answer is no, then don’t put it up. Simple.
- Don’t make yourself an easy target for abuse: Many of us have strong opinions on certain topics and although we’re entitled to our opinions, posting them online invites responses, good and bad, and may offend or harrass others.
- Be selective about accepting Friend or Follow requests: Accepting Friend or Follow requests from strangers is risky as you are giving them a ‘window’ into your life. It’s also wise to carefully consider requests from a friend of a friend, a work associate or someone you've only met once. Ask those who know them what they are like, ask yourself why they want to connect with you and use some good old-fashioned common sense too before accepting or declining!
- If you notice inappropriate online activity or experience abuse or harassment online, you can report the person involved and Block or Unfollow them.
- Don’t believe everything you read online: Not everything online is correct or true and this applies to posts by companies, the media, celebrities, advertisers, and even those you Friend and Follow.So think twice and employ some careful consideration and common sense before you post anything or accept an online invitation. One post can change your life, and not always for the better, and once you put it ‘out there’ the damage is done. As the famous American actress and comedian Carol Burnett once said, "Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own."