Think before you post

Yesterday the European Union celebrated Safer Internet Day with the theme Think B4 U Post. Although the message was aimed at teenagers, there’s a lot that adults can learn from it.

I see Facebook status updates from friends and acquaintances detailing the contents of their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They talk about their daily routines — benchpressing, donut-eating, commuting, and grocery shopping. Every time there is a fad, they participate — sometimes telling the world at large the kind and color of underwear they’re sporting.

They post photos of their shoes, their hairdresser, their choice in toilet paper brand. They share what song they’re currently humming. They make available their phone number, their e-mail address, and date of birth. So consumed are they by the concept of communal sharing that they forget the dangers of such public “nudity.” Not many use privacy settings on Facebook to limit access to their personal information. Hardly any ego search.

When I had joined Facebook way back when, I was foolish enough to do most of the above. Until I realized, no one cares that I skipped breakfast, or had a taco salad for lunch. Social media is a powerful medium — it helps reconnect, but it can also be harnessed to engage people into something more constructive. Something relevant. So, I started asking questions — sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes mindless — and immediately saw a keen interest. People wanted to share. To relate. To connect.

I don’t post personal updates (except on the occasional weekend) but still share my deepest thoughts, albeit with a question mark at the end. And people journey with me.

When I started blogging, one of my biggest fears was putting myself out there. On Facebook, I can control access to my photos, my wall, my status updates, but in the blogosphere the door to my mind is wide open. Everyone can come in, partake, celebrate or reject, leave without a trace, or bring a gift to share. But therein lies the beauty of it, too. I can use the power of this glass house to gauge reader interest — to see if my words touch strangers’ lives. To assess if my writing has any meaning to those who don’t really know me, but know me.

It takes courage to knowingly share what you hold dear with the world. And I appreciate the encouragement I have received from groups like She Writes, IndiBlogger, and Writers Rising. But all the same I tread these waters cautiously. The Internet is a nasty thing — once you put something on here, it’s permanent. There is no scope for Oops! There is no taking it back.

So, before you post anything personal online, think; assess; reflect; rewrite; and only if it is really relevant, hit the update button. Also, Google yourself to see what the world knows about you.

Find anything interesting? 😉

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “Think before you post

  1. Pingback: Facebook: your personal recommendation engine | First Impressions

  2. Pingback: Facebook: your personal recommendation engine « First Impressions

  3. I had the same thought like u while i started blogging. After a long discussion with myself I ended up blogging using my name itself. Like Lazy Pineapple said its not easy to blog in complete anonymity. So it is ok to throw some light about yourself to the readers when necessary or when the post requires. Even in social networking sites I try not to do silly updates and as a policy I never add my boss or my current office colleagues.

    • Thanks for your comment, Moulee. It’s always good practice to draw a line between personal and professional unless of course your colleagues also happen to be your personal friends. Thanks, again, for dropping by.

  4. I always tried to stay anonymous in writing personal matters just because of this reason. What will “they” think if they watch me? . I tried to avoid opportunity to misuse my personal informations and feelings then.

    Nice to read this post…thank you..

    • Thanks, Raghu. Appreciate your kind words. And I understand that feeling of being under the lens, of being judged. It requires a fair amount of courage to take a stand and to say exactly what you think without giving a hoot about what the world thinks of you in return.

  5. identity theft is a big business in the software world..both for good and bad. There are companies who specialize in securing identities, and erasing identities, creating identities,and modifying identities…and all this with legal frames.Te trouble starts when policies become just twisted English words.

    Did you know, that your surfing behavior could throw up a pattern, which will attract only a particular type of adverts that you can see ? So for example, if you visited photos of Brazil, or searched for it on Google, chances are the sidebar will have ads featuring cheap airfares to Brazil ! On similar lines over a period of time your internet footprint is already being tracked ….and legally.

    Because you have not read the terms and conditions , point 4, sub point c, sub point ii on page 37 – where it mentions your information can or might stored,owned,modified or published as the case may be.!

    Good post Mansi – hope it is an eye opener for some.

  6. I am a fairly active facebooker and yes people did know that I was stuck ina traffic jam this morning 🙂 I have turned on privacy settings recently. But then I am fairly candid on my blogs. I deal with innocuous subjects such as food, travel, occasionally things around. I am more comfortable on blogs than on FB as things go to people you know, work with directly in the latter

  7. I do not know. I never found Internet dangerously risky. It is not any more risky than a train. Are you afraid of a train and a railway line which passes through your locality? No, you are not. And most probably, you are not seeing my point here.

    The point is: Railway line is only dangerous when some one choose to walk on it while a train is coming. Similarly, Internet is only dangerous when one puts a very specific information out there which can be used to steal one’s identity. Such information is less than 1% of all information that relates to one person. And yes, photos are not such personal info. [and yes, Tirzah, you are super paranoid :o)]. So if one is willingly putting his/her mm/dd/yyyy and mom’s maiden name etc. on Internet then he/she is no different than the person walking on a railway line when train is coming. You are precisely doing what not to do. There is no ambiguity in defining what not to do. Anything that can be used to trace you in paper or in person without any error is what one should not put. examples of such things are unique identity number (like DL or SSN etc) or exact residential address etc. example of not-such things are photos and tweets.

    For example, one can google and find ‘almost everything’ about me. There are only 5-10 things about me that you will never ever find and those are precisely the one to be protected. It is so simple. No confusion. I have no privacy setting set on my Facebook (a very overrated thing to do), my profile is very up to date and I would like to I challenge anyone to tell me one item which I am exposing which one should not. Surprise me.

    Let’s invoke our birthright to freely express and do whatever we want to do without violating other’s freedom. Caution is good, paranoid is not. We should no let paranoid and scare curb our fundamental rights.

    In case i lost you on my point, here it is again in other words:
    Privacy is also one’s birthright so if people are holding on to things as a matter of protecting their privacy, then it s super fine, but this holding should never be due to any scare or threat or paranoid. You do not want to live in fear, do you?

    • No, Vikas, you don’t want to live in fear. But (and this is to your point) you also don’t want to be stupid and reckless about the kind of information you share with billions of other people via the intertubes. Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts.

  8. its a good question. How much should we let out. I do post stuff on FB but its limited.

    In the course of writing a blog I found that we do have to sometimes give tidbits of information on ourselves else the reader just cannot connect to what you are saying. It used to happen to me in initial days when I started blogging and it held me back. No too I am careful but do slip in a bit of info here and there.

    I know its important to be safe but every click we make on the internet can be traced back…

  9. I believe blogging is a way of using your creative energy to gather your thoughts into meaningful expressions , you can always have a diary or blog which you can keep private .. but dont be afraid of internet , yes we need to be cautious . The fear will never let the real you to express the truest human emotions inside you ..

  10. I use my privacy settings on Facebook. If you aren’t a friend of mine then you see nothing. I don’t post my full first name or the city I live in.

    I do have two pictures of my in photos but they are old pictures and look very little like me now. And I never put them as my profile picture.

    I don’t list my schools.

    But I also have no desire to connect to anyone I went to school with. Either I kept up with you or I didn’t. If I didn’t, tough tittie said the kitty.

    I actually flinch when someone posts something that is overly personal. People post anything online. And it’s nuts.

    But I’ve been told I’m paranoid.

    LOL.

    I’ve been known to refuse and A/S/L request if it’s a public chat. I don’t have to tell you anything on a grown up chat. And I’m never on a kid chat.

    However, if one more 12 year old gets on a chatroom that they should not be on and posts their home email and phone number, I’m going to spank some parents. Educate your children on internet safety.

    And my chats are mostly writing chats not romantic ones but you have to have boundaries and stick to them.

    I’ll share anything on my thoughts, even the uncomfortable ones. But I won’t tell you where I work.

    Paranoid? I dunno.

    But at least I’m not naked and drunk on my Facebook profile photo.

    Thank goodness.

  11. You’re so very right in all that you’ve highlighted with precision in the good post, dear Mansi..!

    Just a couple of years ago, the father of ‘www’, Tim Berners-Lee cautioned the world’s multiplying millions and now billions of surfers on its destructive potential in the future.

    Personal data, he said, was precious & deeply personal and should never be put on websites, not least social networking ones such as Facebook and My-Space.

    Imagine that everything you are typing is being read by the person you are applying to for your first job. Imagine that it’s all going to be seen by your parents and your grandparents and your grandchildren, as well…

    If you wish, you may read this post of mine that I had written about it almost two years ago…
    PERSONAL DATA SHOULD NEVER BE PUT ON WEBSITES

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