Trey Pennington, whom I follow on Twitter, recently recommended the Social Media Examiner blog post Facebook Community Pages: What Your Business Needs to Know. (It’s quite a useful post if you do business on Facebook, and worth reading.) In doing so, Pennington quoted from it the nine most calm, clever, useful words imaginable:
“If you don’t want something shared, don’t share it.”
Landlords, employers, creditors, insurance companies, colleges, law enforcement, that amazing girl you asked out – they all search Google and social media to find out more about you before deciding to take (or keep) you on. Potential thieves, resentful exes, jealous colleagues, prankster friends can all take screen shots, download content or keep tabs on you. (Note: click on the links in the first sentence of this paragraph to read real-life examples.)
So think twice before you post. All of us need to remember that whatever we publish online, no matter how seemingly innocuous it is, MAY end up being seen, saved or copied by anyone. Even if your account is set to private. Even if you only have a few Twitter followers. Even if “nobody” reads your blog.
A few examples:
- Regardless of whether your Twitter account is set to private, your tweets could still show up in the RSS feed of people you haven’t allowed to follow you. It won’t be every tweet, but if they have a keyword search saved via RSS, it might pull in even protected tweets that contain the designated search string. I’ve seen it happen in my own search feeds.
- A Facebook “friend” of a friend of mine downloaded one my friend’s photos, and it ended up being published elsewhere without his knowledge or permission.
- Another friend, finding himself in the position of job-hunting, took his Twitter profile private since he regularly uses it to detail his, shall we say, extracurricular activities. Which is fine prospectively; future tweets will be private (excepting the afore-mentioned search loophole). What he may not realize is that all his previous tweets, which were public, have already been indexed by the search engines. If an employer is searching for them, they’ll be found. And there’s nothing to stop someone with access from taking a screen-shot of the now-private tweet stream anyway (happens all the time to celebrities on the gossip blogs).
- I’ve previously blogged about how publicly posting your whereabouts, including via geo-location tags, can put you or your home at risk.
So before you choose to badmouth your boss, brag about your booze-up, complain about your client, or wax rhapsodic during your Hawaiian holiday: think twice, and make sure you’re prepared to live with the consequences of everyone knowing it.