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Be careful what you share on social media because you never know when something could come back and ruin your life. Even the most innocent and well-intentioned posts could be used against you in ways you’ve never thought possible.
And we’re not just talking about websites that track you with social ads and use that information to build behavioral profiles on you. A lot of people worry about how evil corporations are “stealing” our data, but the sad truth is that you and I freely give away more than we think do.
You’d be shocked if you knew what Facebook knows about you just from your posts and comments. So before you share anything else on social media, here’s what you should never share if you value your privacy and safety.
1. When You’re on Vacation
After you’ve managed to save money on a vacation package and have started planning your next big adventure in life, you may feel tempted to express your excitement through social media. Other people brag about their vacations all the time, so you can too, right?
Well, you may want to reconsider as it may not be the smartest thing to tell the world when you’re going on vacation and when you’re coming back. You never know who might see your posts and use that information to plan a break-in and steal everything you own.
I promise I'm not dead I just don't have a phone and im on vacation
— Erika?? (@Erika_Harvey_) January 15, 2016
If you really want to share your trip, save it for when you get back. Rather than uploading your photos in real-time, wait until you’re safe at home and upload everything at once. It’s less exciting, I know, but it’s also safer.
And this advice doesn’t just hold for vacations. Think twice before you announce that you’re going out to dinner or staying over at a friends. Paranoid? Maybe, but you never know.
2. Geolocation and Check-Ins
We all know that smartphones can track our GPS coordinates, but did you know that your browser can also track where you are? That’s how social networks like Twitter and Facebook are able to know where you are when you post new tweets or status updates. This is called geolocation.
The thing is, malicious individuals can use your geolocation information to track you down and stalk you. Or they can use it to collect even more personal data and release it publicly. Do you really want your home location on the Internet where everyone can see?
— Ian Harrold (@IanHarrold) December 19, 2015
By extension, you should never give out your physical address or phone numbers through social media — even if you think the communication method is private. Data breaches and account hackers are all too common these days.
And lastly, avoid using the check-in feature that some social apps provide. It might seem cool to let your friends and family know where you are at any given time, but I’m not convinced that the risks are worth it.
3. Privileged Inside Information
It’s not uncommon for people on social media to accidentally post private information through public channels, and most of the time the repercussions are minor — but you have to be particularly careful when that information is business related.
I feel like I broke my NDA by tweeting about the corn soup. The ninjas are probably on their way.
— Josiah Purtlebaugh (@toraton) January 14, 2016
For example, if you signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (also known as a Confidentiality Agreement), it doesn’t only apply to formal modes of communication. Spilling confidential details on social media — even accidentally — is not something you want to be caught doing.
The same holds true if you’re privy to inside information at work: who’s going to be laid off next week, what kind of strategy your company will have for the new year, etc. If you aren’t authorized to share it, you really can’t share it. Otherwise you may find yourself in legal trouble.
4. Complaints and Rants
Speaking of the workplace, it’s important that you don’t air your grievances on social media either. If you want to complain about your boss or coworkers, social media is not where you want to do it. It’s just too likely that someone will see it.
For some reason, people have a lot of trouble with this one. It might be because we live in a culture that thrives on venting and complaining about everything. But regardless of the reasons why, no one can deny that social media is a huge outlet of frustration for many.
I just played dumb so I can get out of some stupid assignment my boss tried to give me and go to lunch…
— Patrick (@champagnepatty) January 20, 2016
Just remember that if you aren’t careful, your complaints could get you fired.
Similarly, you should never post anything negative about the company itself. Again, it’s just too likely that someone will see it and report you, and you could be on the hook for defamation. If you really want to complain, try using one of these specialized sites.
5. Self-Incriminating Evidence
Not everything you see on social media is legal. And while it’s one thing to get fined or fired over a joke or incendiary comment, it’s something else entirely to break the law and leave the evidence on your account for all to see.
You probably won’t see any truly heinous crimes on Facebook or Twitter, but it’s not hard to find incidents where people laugh about driving drunk or taking selfies while on the highway. And there are also people who take photos of their marijuana stashes, their illegal firearms, and even cash that they’ve stolen.
Do everyone, including yourself, a favor by never posting anything like that on social media. At best, you’ll get a few Likes and maybe some credibility among your friends, but at worst, you could find yourself in jail or prison.
6. Expensive New Purchases
Here’s another thing that people love to brag about on social media: shiny new toys! Whether you just got a new phone, tablet, laptop, Amazon Echo, car, house, or whatever else — maybe you’re so excited that you can’t help but post it online. But there are two reasons why you shouldn’t do that.
The first reason is that these kinds of posts contribute to a massive problem that affects most social networks, which is the fact that social media amplifies our insecurities and feelings of failure. When you post highlights from your life, it inadvertently causes some to fill with envy and possibly even resentment.
i love my new macbook pro!! pic.twitter.com/5fDNcVTLBJ
— jared baird (@itsjaredbaird) January 7, 2016
The second reason is more practical: when you tell the world that you have a shiny new toy, some people may want to steal it from you or take advantage of you in some way. An extreme case would be announcing that you won the lottery — and you know how that would go, don’t you?
As a general rule of thumb, don’t showcase things like jewelry and electronics on social media, especially if your friends are the kind that you don’t trust 100%.
7. Giving Personal Advice
We’ve all seen it before: people who are sick and ask for home remedy tips on Facebook, or people who have gotten themselves into a bind and tweet for possible legal advice. Both are extremely common on sites like Reddit as well.
Money saving protip: just never go to the doctor.
— James Myers (@MisterJMyers) January 15, 2016
But no matter how tempted you might be, and no matter how sure of yourself you might be, it’s in everyone’s best interest — including your own — that you don’t give medical or legal advice to people over social media. This is true even if you’re a doctor or lawyer.
The key point is that you simply don’t know all of the facts. If someone is sick or in trouble, they should get professional help. This also applies to advice on exercise, weight loss, diet, finance, relationships, etc. Best to stay quiet on all of that.
8. Scams, Invites, and Giveaways
Social networks are prime targets for things like giveaways and contests, mainly because it’s so darn easy to click “Share” and not think twice about it. However, if that describes you, then you may want to pump your brakes and reconsider.
Social media is as salty as a margarita this morning after they all found out that lotto giveaway link was a scam. ?? #welcometoreality
— ??? (@gnashpredusa) January 16, 2016
First of all, if you’re constantly sharing giveaways, contests, and invites to Facebook games, there’s a good chance that you’re annoying every one of your friends (at least the ones who haven’t yet blocked you). It’s spammy at best, shady at worst.
But moreso than that, some these so-called giveaways and contests are actually scams in disguise, and you could unknowingly be spreading malware or tricking people into giving away sensitive data. To be on the safe side, you should be wary of any and all of these “share me” events.
9. Anything You May Regret Later
You may think this last one is a cop-out because it’s a blanket catch-all for anything not yet covered, but if there’s one rule that you live by on social media, let it be this one: never post anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.
The one thing that everyone should know about the Internet is that once something is available to the public, it’s pretty much impossible to remove it completely. Your photos, videos, and posts? There’s no way to know who’s seen it, who’s saved it, and who’s sharing it with someone else.
So if you post something today and regret it two years down the road, you may be able to delete it from your account, but it can never be completely erased. Even modes of self-destruct communication aren’t perfect in this regard. Never post or share anything that you aren’t 100% behind.
Be Careful What You Do on Social Media
If you’re a heavy user of social media and this article scared you, good. The truth is that we really can’t trust social media and even the smallest mistakes — which may seem fine at the time — can have terrible consequences when you least expect it. So, be careful.
That being said, social media still has a lot of upsides to it. Check out these amazing social media stats and facts to see how the landscape is both growing and changing into something different. These social media TED Talks provide some interesting insights as well.
Have you ever posted or shared something on social media only to have it come back and bite you in the rear? Tell us about it in the comments and let us know how you dealt with it!
Image Credits:man breaking into a residential building by Jarhe Photography via Shutterstock