Stories abound about people who have embraced the online revolution a little too enthusiastically and lived to regret it later. While the younger generation is growing up with no frame of reference for an internet-free culture, those who are old enough to remember the pre-Facebook days often shudder when viewing some of what is posted online today. If you are planning to use your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others) accounts for highly personal use only, perhaps you do not worry about wanting a “take back” later for posts you wish you could erase. But if you ever expect to encounter your boss, your ex, your mom or similar others online, here are two critical tips to be sure you don’t embarrass yourself.
Tip #1: Do Not Over-Share
The number one rule of internet use is “do not over-share.” What this means is – if you can think of anyone that you might not want to know what you are about to post, then think twice before posting it (better yet, don’t post it at all). While everyone loves to laugh at funny people pictures online, most people don’t want to see themselves in those same photos. If this describes you, be sure you become familiar with tools like “untagging” (removing your name from associated photos) and, if necessary, “unfriending” (removing social media links between yourself and someone you no longer wish to have contact with). As well, be cautious about which contacts you choose to link to online. People have lost jobs, relationships and more because of ill-advised over-sharing online. With judicious self-monitoring of your social media connections, you can be sure you will never be one of them.
Tip #2: Monitor Your Topics
Another important way that many people inadvertently bring unwelcome attention to themselves is through their choice of conversation topics online. For instance, if you have just had a bad romantic breakup, you may feel tempted to publicly bash your ex on Facebook. If you have been let go from work, you may want to let loose to your social media circles about how unfair it was and what really happened. But those circles often prove to be much smaller and more attentive than you bargained for. While most social media users may never plan to run for public office, if what you are about to talk about – your sex life, your dishonest boss, your “little” white lie to your boyfriend, your unauthorized fishing trip on national park lands – is something you wouldn’t want to revisit in a job interview later, you probably need to select a different and safer topic to talk about online.
By refraining from the now-classic online “over-share” and monitoring your discussion topics closely, you can ensure that you save really important or emotional discussions for off-line heart-to-heartswith people you really trust. As well, you will pave your way for an embarrassment-free future in job interviews, first dates and other important life occasions.
About the Author: Sam Decoteau is a social media coordinator. He blogs on online etiquette, trends and faux pas.