By Tara Swords
From Every Day Connected
Social media is so pervasive in our lives, we often use it mindlessly. It’s easy to forget that content we post to social media sites can be visible to millions of people — beyond our approved connections too.
Even I often comment on news stories on third-party sites with my Facebook identity, not thinking twice about displaying my full name, photo and opinions to the whole world.
Now that we’re all hyper-exposed, there’s no shortage of ways to embarrass ourselves online. Here are three big ones to guard against:
Social Media Blunder No. 1: You don’t manage your online relationships.
According to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends. And you can bet that many users simply lump all their friends together in one big list. What’s so bad about that?
It’s a matter of time before you post something that — in retrospect — you didn’t want all of your friends to see. Is your manager a Facebook friend? Then she might notice that you updated your status when you were supposed to be paying attention to a conference call. Did you tell your in-laws that you couldn’t come over for dinner because you weren’t feeling well? Then they might notice when your best friend posts to your wall: “Epic night! So glad we went out!”
Avoid these problems by taking advantage of Facebook’s friend lists. You can create and give custom names to as many subsets of friends as you like — “work,” “inner circle,” “family,” “kid-friendly,” “high school,” etc. — and post each update or photo album for only the people you really want seeing it. The more granularly you manage these relationships, the fewer awkward situations you’ll encounter.
Social Media Blunder No. 2: You act impulsively.
Social media is often intended to be immediate and reactionary. After all, Facebook prompts you with “What’s on your mind?” while Twitter asks “What’s happening?” These questions are invitations to say anything that’s on your mind … and too often, people do.
Before you post your own content or respond to somebody else’s, pause. Think through potential consequences. Ask yourself not only who is likely to see it, but also whether you’re being clear and fair. Consider yourself too: Will this make you cringe a month or a year from now?
Social Media Blunder No. 3: You over-share.
I could rattle off several of my online connections who regularly over-share, filling us all in about their fights with significant others, grudges with co-workers, feelings about everything. Not only are over-sharers not interesting, but their over-sharing inevitably also colors others’ opinions of them.
Remember that the content you post online will affect other people’s perceptions of you immediately, and it may also persist long into the future. If you’re not OK with this information as part of your electronic record, don’t post it.
A final note: Don’t over-share information about your kids’ lives, either. I, for one, am sure that 12 years from now, my detailed descriptions of my toddler’s potty training adventures won’t seem quite so cute to her friends.
Tara Swords is a freelance technology and lifestyle writer based in Washington, D.C.