Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook offer a quick and easy way to connect with friends and family. It’s great to upload pictures from the big game, chat in real time with someone half a world away, or post lists of your favorite things. But having an online social presence has its risks. Sharing too many personal details can lead to unfortunate consequences.
By understanding how social media works and following some common-sense rules, you can enjoy social media while safeguarding your privacy.
The Internet: Everybody’s business
The Internet is a public forum. With few restrictions, information on the ‘Net is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Social media sites exist inside this global fishbowl. What you post about yourself — and what others post about you — leave an indelible virtual trail on the World Wide Web. Your social media “persona” follows you like an electronic shadow. Forever.
Even deleted content may not be “gone”. Web scraping, the act of harvesting and archiving personal data from social media and other Internet sites, is big business.
You are your own publicist…
Your social media persona begins with you —with the sites you use, the personal information you reveal, and the audience you reach based on your privacy settings on each site. You are the publicist of your Facebook page or Twitter account. What you post, share and tag there paints a picture of you for the world to see.
As a social media user, you must weigh the nature and scope of the information you share against the risks to your personal privacy. Ask yourself, Is this too much information?
…and everyone with a cellphone camera is potential paparazzi
As you manage your social media persona, keep in mind that your words and actions can be recorded by others and posted without your knowledge. Think for a moment. Don’t all your friends have camera phones? Watch your behavior. Talk to your friends about what is off limits for social media and set boundaries. Ask to be untagged from photos that you find objectionable.
But who cares about what I post?
Would you leave your wallet, cell phone or diary on the bus? Depending on your level of sharing, that is a risk you take whenever you post to social media.
Who is looking at your social media persona? Lots of interested parties:
- Digital marketers like Amazon seek to know you, theconsumer. Ever receive a recommended-for-you list from a Website? Your browsing and buying habits determine that list. Social media and other sites may track your shopping lists, site visits, conversations, likes and usage patterns in order to compile a consumer profile of you.
- Employers and graduate schools look beyond skills and grades and seek individuals who demonstrate judgment and responsibility. Many conduct Web searches as part of the vetting process. Those photos from a crazy night partying on the South Side might be fun memories, but would you want to have to explain them at an interview?
- The casually curious, perhaps acquaintances from class who are not your friends. You wouldn’t want strangers snooping around your dorm or apartment; why invite them into your life through Facebook?
- Criminals. These opportunists look to exploit your information for robbery or identity theft.
Developing and maintaining your social media image
- Guard your most valuable personal data—date of birth, SSN, driver’s license number, bank accounts and passwords. Never share these on social media sites.
- Think: What would my parents say? Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable showing to mom and dad.
- Be respectful. Apply the Golden Rule not only to posts and tweets, but to photos, blogs and chats.
- Avoid profanity.
- To avoid being tracked, don’t post your whereabouts in real time. Post only after-the-fact.
- Think long-term, not in the moment. Consider the ramifications of your post.
- Be sure that your social media persona casts you in a positive light. Refer to the Duquesne University Mission Statement and the Expectations of a Duquesne Student. Make certain you are being “Duquesne-able.”
Twice a year, Web-search yourself using 2-3 search engines to see what the Web finds about you.
- Edit and delete content as necessary.
- Review and adjust your privacy settings.
- Manage your social network. Consider with whom you share personal information. Break connections to irresponsible users.
Consequences for inappropriate behavior with social media may include University conduct and /or criminal charges as well as negative impact on your reputation, your family, your organization, and your University.