Social Media Oversharing: Crossing the Line of Privacy…

Crossing the LineThe death of Trey Pennington last week made me think about how much information we share on social media sites and the consequences of crossing the line of privacy on the web.

Trey Pennington was a well known marketing consultant, blogger and had an online radio show. He maintained presences on all of the major social networks and had over 111,464 followers on Twitter. The morning before he took his life, Trey went on Facebook and posted several family pictures with personal comments (which are publicly visible to anyone). His personal struggles over the last few months were apparently known in his social media circles and judging from his comments on these pictures, his family situation was causing him great anguish.

This very sad story which is very personal was shared across social networks for everyone to see. Perhaps this was his way of calling out for help which makes this even more tragic! But when is social media sharing crossing the line of privacy?

There are several other examples of people who have shared very personal information on social networks. Let’s not forget the infamous Congressman Anthony Weiner sending very intimate pictures to women on Twitter.

In New York, 5 employees were fired after complaining about their jobs on Facebook (although these employees were ordered to be re-hired by a National Labor Relations Board judge).

There are numerous instances of people losing their jobs or relationships for posting comments or pictures on different social networks.

Why We Share

According to some studies, we not only share because of the actual content but it might also have to do with our emotional state at that time. Several researchers have shown that heightened emotions drive people to share information.

A Personal Choice

When sharing on social media sites, you need to be fully conscious of what it means and the potential risks it might involve. It’s important to be aware of privacy settings, to control the reach your messages might have across the web. What you share on your social networks is a personal choice and different people may have different ideas over what constitutes oversharing nevertheless you have to be willing to live with the consequences.

What Is Oversharing

  • Posting your complete date of birth
  • Announcing vacations or when you’re away from home
  • Sharing hate messages
  • Posting your every move including what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Sharing pictures of inappropriate situations such as being intoxicated, showing too much “skin”, being with people or places you shouldn’t be, etc.
  • Posting your home phone number or address
  • Sharing your family battles including marital arguments
  • Posting about your financial situation
  • Sharing every little accomplishment your kids have achieved
  • Posting the same content over and over 50 times per day
  • Posting personal information or pictures about your friends and family
  • Letting us know every time you’re on YoVille or other online games 

Consequences Of Oversharing

Reputation

People often base their opinion of people on what they see and read even if they might not know you personally. If you care about your personal and professional reputation, try not to cross the line of privacy and watch what you share and how people might perceive it.

Get Caught Red-Handed

Some Government departments such as the IRS look on Social networks for a wide range of publicly posted personal financially-related information. If you haven’t been totally straight on your taxes, you might not want to say too much on social networks about your financial situation. The same goes for anything “illegal” you might have done.

Break-ins:

There’s some evidence to support the notion that burglars are turning to social media to find their targets. Some services like Foursquare and other location base tools might be putting you at risk.

Employers

Many employers use Facebook to investigate candidates for positions in their companies before they extend offers to hire. You could be ruining your chances of being hired for your dream job by oversharing information.

Personal Relationships

How many times have you heard about Facebook causing a divorce because people got caught having an online romance? Not much remain private when you share on social media sites.

Also remember that whenever you include other people in your posts on social networks, these people might not be as willing as you are to share their private lives. Don’t ruin your personal relationships by oversharing!

Unfollow

According to some research, 66% of people who have unfollowed people on Twitter say that the reason was posting too much.

Before going on social media sites, set limits for yourself and think twice before you post those personal pictures or you start bad-mouthing your boss or mother in-law! Posting a picture of your last wild party night might seem innocent but you never know who’s going to use it against you in the future.

If you’re feeling angry or sad, it might be a good idea to step away from your computer for a few hours until you can think logically and have a better state of mind. You might be surprised of what seemed to be a good idea a few hours before is not such a good idea anymore.

Have you ever posted personal information on social networks that you have regretted later?

Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Genevieve Lachance is a web marketing consultant who has a passion for social media and technology based in Montreal, Canada. Read More About Me »