Today, more and more people are using social media to keep in touch, make new friends and conduct business. There’s no arguing the power of social media, but many people forget they aren’t just talking to their “friends” – they’re talking, literally, to the world!

When you post on a social media site, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. you are literally putting it out there for the world to see and once it’s posted, it can’t be taken back, regardless of the consequences.  Consider the following examples:

  • A 20-year distinguished veteran journalist at CNN posted a 140 character “Tweet” on Twitter that cost her job. The trouble all began on the 4th of July, 2010 when Octavia Nasr posted  a “tweet” on Twitter not only expressing her condolences at the death of Lebanese Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fadallah, but also praising him as “one of Hezbollah’s giants” whom she “respected” a lot. The trouble was, Fadallah has been linked to terrorist attacks against Israel. When supporters of Israel voiced their concern and outrage, Nasr was “removed from her job”.
  • Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, killed himself by jumping from the New York City’s George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010 following a video posting on iChat revealing Clementi in a sexual encounter with another man. Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, both fellow Rutgers students have been charged with invasion of privacy and may face more serious hate crime charges.
  • Burglars are using Facebook posts and “Tweets” to target houses.
  • Employers often search Google and social networking sites to find out about applicants and employees’ activities outside the workplace. In one instance an employer made a job offer to a candidate. Following receipt of the offer, the candidate posted a comment on his social networking site indicating the job didn’t really excite him but that he planned to take it until he could find something better. The employer found this post and immediately rescinded their offer.

So, what’s a person to do? Well the first piece of advice I’d give you is – use some common sense! If you wouldn’t want your mother, grandmother, daughter, spouse, pastor, EMPLOYER, or the front page of the USA Today to see it, cover it, pass it along to others, don’t post it! Other tips include:

  • Don’t accept “friending” requests from people you don’t know.  Research has shown that about 13% of Facebook users and 92% of Twitter users tend to accept friend requests or follows without checking up on the source.
  • Keep your personal information private – don’t post your address and phone number, it’s easy enough to find you on the internet without broadcasting it
  • Don’t post your whereabouts. Contrary to popular belief, thieves are smart and when you tell your “friends” you’re going on vacation and will be gone for a week, you’re asking for trouble.
  • Be aware of your privacy settings and use them to protect you and your family – remember all sites are a business and businesses are in business to make a profit and your information is used to steer “sponsors” to you.
  • Use strong, secure passwords
  • Be vigilant and don’t fall for scams. Scammer count of your ignorance, so have fun, but be careful.