Safety | Social Media | Teenagers

The Dangers of Oversharing on Social Media

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS

We are leaving for #Hawaii in two days. Maui, here we come. #10daysinparadise #couplesretreat #readytopack

We’ve all seen social media posts like the one above, right? Heck, maybe you’ve posted something similar in the past. Let’s say we posted that simple two-sentence status update for all our friends on our friend’s list. Harmless right?

Wrong. Let’s discuss the detailed information that we just handed over to a stranger, and for the sake of this post, an unknown criminal. From this one social media post, we told everyone:

1. In two days, we’re leaving for vacation.
2. Our home will be empty for ten days.
3. Our vacation will include two people.
4. And, we left the metadata information (longitude and latitude) attached to the photo we posted. Which means, anyone can use google maps to find the exact location of our home.

The criminal has everything they need. 

Now, they wait until we get into the car and drive to the airport before they make their move. 

What else do you think they know?

Not just the criminal but our entire friends’ list as well?

If you’re like most people, you’ve had a Facebook page for a long time. And like most individuals, you may have a few or more people you don’t know that are on that list. Maybe a friend of a friend or a relative of a friend who has a friend you work or go to school with.

Isn’t that how social media works? Facebook will often show you a name and picture with the title “someone you may know.”

So let’s go back to the criminal that just read our vacation post. With the swipe of the criminal’s finger across their cellphone screen, a simple scroll through our profile news feed will also provide this information: 

You have a big dog named Duke, and he loves pizza. (Remember the picture you posted of Duke eating from the pizza box)?

You have no kids. (It’s in your “about me” profile).

Your sister lives two miles away. (Remember the post where you did a live video on your way to your sister’s house and you mentioned that she lives two miles away)?

The new 60” TV you bought yourself last week. (You posted a picture of it).

The criminal has their eye on that one!

The Criminal in our story also knows they will have to get around your alarm system. (Remember the video footage post you shared when the Amazon driver threw your box on the porch, and the alarm system captured the entire event)?

What’s shocking is that we openly give all this information to hundreds and sometimes thousands of people for the sake of sharing virtually.  

What else do we give strangers who follow us on social media?

  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Our Likes
  • Our Dislikes
  • Our Habits
  • Our Hobbies
  • Our Routines

THINK BEFORE YOU POST

So how do we share without sharing personal information? Let’s look at our original post and see how we might rewrite it to share the same enthusiasm with less personal information. 

Here’s our original post:

We are leaving for #Hawaii in two days. Maui, here we come. #10daysinparadise #couplesretreat #readytopack

Let’s rewrite the post:

Time for some R&R. Can’t wait to chill in the sand. #readytopack #lovethesun #restandrelaxation

What information did we give our unknown criminal this time? 

1. I’m ready to relax in the sun.
2. I may be gone a day (packing a cooler) or longer, but you won’t have any exact information. 

That’s it. The photo is a GIF and has no metadata information. The would-be criminal has just decided to look for another victim. A few changes to our vocabulary and we shared a post without sharing personal details.

USE PRIVACY AND SECURITY SETTINGS

Every social platform allows you to change your security settings

Make sure you check your security settings before you post on your platforms. 

Facebook’s privacy settings are in one place. 

Twitter and Instagram also have privacy settings that are easily accessible. 

For Instagram, click the three lines in the top right (from the phone app) and then the settings at the bottom. 

For Twitter, click on your profile photo (from the phone app) and then the settings and privacy at the bottom. 

SEARCH FOR YOURSELF

Do a google search on yourself and see what kind of information is available for strangers.

You can also set up a google alert and receive emails when new results for a topic show up in Google Search. For example, you can get information anytime someone mentions your name.

CHECK-IN AFTER YOU LEAVE

Never use the check-in feature on any social platform while you’re still at the location. Always check-in after you’ve left. That way, you cannot be stalked by anyone who follows your updates. 

USE SECURE PASSWORDS

According to HowtoGeek.com, a strong password has these elements: 

Has 12 Characters, Minimum: You need to choose a password that’s long enough. There’s no minimum password length everyone agrees on, but you should generally go for passwords that are a minimum of 12 to 14 characters in length. A longer password would be even better.

Includes Numbers, Symbols, Capital Letters, and Lower-Case Letters: Use a mix of different characters to make the password harder to crack.

Isn’t a Dictionary Word or Combination of Dictionary Words: Stay away from obvious dictionary words and combinations of dictionary words. Any word on its own is bad. Any combination of a few words, especially if they’re obvious, is also bad. For example, “house” is a terrible password. “Red House” is also very bad.

Doesn’t Rely on Obvious Substitutions: Don’t use common substitutions, either — for example, “H0use” isn’t strong just because you’ve replaced an o with a 0. That’s just obvious.

Try to mix it up—for example, “BigHouse$123” fits many of the requirements here. It’s 12 characters and includes upper-case letters, lower-case letters, a symbol, and some numbers. But it’s fairly obvious—it’s a dictionary phrase where each word is capitalized properly. There’s only a single symbol, all the numbers are at the end, and they’re in an easy order to guess.

TREAT THE“ABOUT ME” FIELDS AS AN OPTIONAL ITEM. 

Be vague when you write your “about me”. Don’t use anything that gives location information. Leave out names and places. Here’s a great way to take your about me to a new level and be creative. 

Instead of:

Wife, mom to two kids, Teacher at Jefferson High school, and Pilates three days a week at Pierce Park. 

Be creative:

CEO of our home, Educator to our kind and loving kids. I’m determined to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture in my spare time and enhance mental awareness with Pilates. 

Doesn’t our creative “about me” sound so much better than the original one? 

There’s nothing wrong with sharing on social media. Just do it in a creative and fun way that doesn’t compromise your safety or the safety of those you love

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