Social media wasn’t created for privacy.


Why are people always shocked when they find out their private information has been exposed online?

We read about teachers, school coaches, firefighters, police officers, youth pastors and other (so-called) responsible adults being caught sexting minors — we have to wonder, did they really believe they wouldn’t get caught?

The internet and social media was created for networking and communication. Privacy rarely is part of this equation, and for people to assume their information is not going to be shared or forwarded, is naive.

Terms of Service

Many of us rarely read terms of service when we sign-up for a new social media platform. As a matter of fact a Deloitte survey in the U.S found that 91% of people consent to legal terms and services conditions without reading them. For younger people, ages 18-34 the rate is even higher with 97% agreeing to conditions before reading.

This means we’re usually not aware of our privacy rights or terms on these platforms – until we are in crisis mode. Maybe you’re scouring to find those old photos you posted when you were drunk or the less than kind comments you decided to blurt-out when you pissed off at your colleague or worse, your boss. You thought that platform was only for a private group, who knew it would go viral — until it did!

Public and Permanent®

The Internet is public domain. Did you know that the Library of Congress is documenting every single public tweet that has ever been made? Sites like allow you to search old tweets going back much further than the Twitter search engine currently allows. Even old versions of websites that you redesigned ages ago are still viewable, thanks to the Wayback Machine, an Internet archive that crawls the web and preserves blasts from the past. Take a moment and search your own website (if you have one) to see what information lingers online.

Know that everything you put out there has the possibility of becoming “Public and Permanent®,” an expression perfectly coined by Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication. Far too many people with technology are not stopping to think about the long-term repercussions of their actions,” he says. Guerry advocates for digital consciousness—always posting with the awareness that anything you’ve documented could be disseminated.

There is no way to control what is going to happen, none,” he says. “Digital tools were never designed for privacy. We’re going against the grain for what these tools were intended. By no means is everything going to be Public and Permanent®, but you have to be prepared. Think about your legacy. It’s not just imagining [that] your ninety-year-old grandma will see your naughty text—but [that] your own grandkids will too.”

Social sharing with boundaries

We all enjoy our social media friends and family. In some ways our friends on social know more about our lives today than our own family — why? Because people like to overshare so much about their lives, from what they have for breakfast to where they are shopping to when they are giving their child a bath. So when people complain about privacy, sometimes we really need to chuckle.

Privacy starts with us. We all must begin by being mindful in our own social homes. If you don’t want to risk it going viral, it should never be on a digital device – ever!

Let me ask you, how many times have you read those confidentiality clauses on an email, yet you have forwarded it to a friend? Maybe you needed to help you understand what was in the email or just wanted to share that note with them. We all have. There is nothing confidential about anything electronic. There’s no rewind online.

How can we take control our of need to share too much?

  • Be mindful of what you share. Never assume your words can’t get twisted and posts can’t come back to surprise you.
  • Learn patience. Pause before you post. Write as if the world is watching. (In many situations, they are).
  • Never assume your among friends. Make it a habit to de-clutter your friends on social platforms. Eliminate those you don’t know and create lists when sharing your family pictures or other information that cyber-acquaintances may use out of context.
  • Never air workplace woes. If you’re upset for any reason, take it offline with a friend for some wine and whine.
  • When in doubt, you can click-out. The best thing about technology, you can turn it off.