Photo Credit: pexels
Chances are, you’ll regret oversharing information on social media. That’s especially true for today’s youth, who grew up with social media and apparently have few or any reservations about sharing information about their personal and private lives online. They are posting photos on Instagram that show them in compromising positions, sending out tweets filled with inappropriate comments or suggestions, and filling up the Facebook feeds of their friends and family with updates on everything from their credit scores to their new health ailments. What they don’t realize, of course, is that all of this social media content can now be data-mined by a host of nefarious actors, not to mention insurance companies, potential employers, and medical providers.
A new study of social media oversharing
To put all this into context, consider the latest study by Euro RSCG Worldwide, which specifically looked at oversharing habits of youth on social media. (For the purposes of the study, they defined “youth” as being the 18-to-35 demographic) For example, the study found that 40 percent of these social media users have already regretted sharing some piece of information on social media, and 35 percent have regretted something that friends or family members shared about them online.
Overall, more than half of these social media users are now concerned that somebody will post something about them on social media that they will regret. We’ve all heard the stories about college applicants having their acceptance letters rescinded in the wake of new revelations on social media about them, or employees being terminated from their jobs when managers are able to peek into their private lives. You might have thought that your drunken or drug-filled weekend binge in Vegas “stayed in Vegas,” but that’s no longer true in the social media era. If you had a “Hangover” type of experience at Caesars Palace, chances are, those photos are going to show up on Instagram sooner or later.
What’s perhaps most surprising about this Euro RSCG Worldwide study is just how likely people are to overshare online. According to the study, 66 percent of young people believe that “youth have no sense of personal privacy” and 57 percent believe that people share too much information about their personal thoughts and experiences. They are obviously oversharing good news (an engagement, an upcoming wedding, a new job promotion), but they are also oversharing bad news (a new health malady, a break-up, financial distress). And that’s where things really get interesting, because all of this bad news shared widely across social media can have some profound long-term consequences for your life.
Long-term implications of social media oversharing
Take, for example, the impact that sharing details of your medical condition might have on your ability to obtain insurance coverage, or the impact that casually mentioning your credit score online might have on your ability to obtain a new source of financing. And, of course, there’s the whole employment angle. Increasingly, recruiters and hiring managers are taking a look at the social media profiles of applicants before hiring them. You really don’t want them to see a Facebook profile in which your entire personal life seems to be spiraling out of control. And, in these crazy times, even hinting that you might be a supporter of a particular political candidate or a certain political cause might land you in hot water at the office.
Time to stop the oversharing
With that in mind, there are several steps that you can take to mitigate all of this oversharing. The most obvious step is to stop accepting “friend requests” from people you don’t know. Why let total strangers find out about the most intimate details of your life? You also should be thinking about ways to scale back the types of content you post on social media. For example, even something relatively innocent – such as posting the date of your next vacation online – might be used by scammers or cybercriminals looking to target people away from home. And even posting your exact birth date online might be used to construct a social profile of you by scammers, or to guess the passwords you use for your banking accounts.
And, of course, it’s worth noting that you should be reaching out to the most prolific of your friends and family members alike, letting them know that they shouldn’t be posting photos or updates about you without your consent. After all, you never really know who is watching you on social media these days, or how seemingly innocuous information can be used as part of a much greater scam to steal your personal profile or wreak havoc in your personal or professional life. It’s better to be safe than sorry.