Nearly 40 percent of internet users between the ages of 18-35 have regretted posting personal information about themselves, and 35 percent have regretted posting personal information about a friend or family member.
57 percent of 18-35-year-olds think people share too much about their personal thoughts and experiences, and nearly that many feel technology is robbing them of their privacy.
Additionally, just over half of respondents worry that friends or family will post something personal about them that they don’t want to be shared, according to a Euro RSCG Worldwide study titled “This Digital Life”[i] that surveyed consumers in 19 countries, including the U.S.
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What’s more, it’s not just parents and grandparents that worry your privacy habits aren’t strong enough; even other teens and twenty-somethings believe youth are particularly careless about protecting personal information online.
Young people also overwhelmingly (66 percent) believe that other youth have no sense of personal privacy and are willing to post anything and everything about their lives.
Oversharing by the numbers
According to a survey conducted by Badoo[ii], American’s overshare:
- 62 percent have shared good news (e.g., a pregnancy or engagement) online.
- 39 percent of Americans have shared bad news (e.g., a death or divorce) on a social network.
- 24 percent confess they accept “friend requests” from people they aren’t really interested in and even those they don’t particularly like – and allow these people to see all their posts.
- 47 percent believe they have to be more guarded with what they say online.
There’s a reason to be concerned about oversharing
Beyond the potential for embarrassment, oversharing can have long-term consequences to your social life, your education and to your chances for employment.
While the personal information you share about yourself, your relationships and your family may seem harmless, consider the impact of sharing in these scenarios:
- “OMG, my mom was just diagnosed with cancer.” Not only may your mother not appreciate you sharing this information, but when you apply for health insurance in the future, this piece of information may be enough to increase the rate you will have to pay or be the reason your application is rejected.
- “Thx bro, you saved me with those test answers.” Discovered by your teacher this could be bad enough, but in a review by a college admissions officer or a potential employer, documenting that you’re willing to cheat isn’t smart.
- “I was so drunk last night, I’m not even sure how I got home.” Even if you’re over 21, this isn’t the reputation you want others to associate with you, worst case this impacts your car and health insurance, your education and job offers.
- “I’m so depressed. I hate my life.” Sharing emotional vulnerabilities is particularly risky since everyone, to one extent or another, is steered by emotions. If you’re sad and a scammer, a creeper or bully catches wind of this, this gives him or her the opportunity to “listen” to your personal issues and gain your trust so he or she can then use it against you.
- “I hate XYZ bank, they charge ridiculous fees on late payments, said my credit score is too low to get a loan.” You’ve just given away information about where you bank – making you a great target for a phishing scam – and told everyone you’re not responsible with money.
The examples could go on and on, but you get the picture. You’ve probably already shared your name, age, city, and state. If you ever said “today’s my birthday” or had someone congratulate you on your birthday, then that information is available… and the profile collecting all your personal information continues to expand.
It may help to think of your internet profile – not the one you created but the one created by companies, crooks, and creeps – as a bucket.
Companies, schools, peers, the parents of a girl or boy you like, insurance groups, the police, criminals and more – you have no idea who is systematically collecting your personal data and how they’re planning to use it.
The good news is you can greatly control the amount of information you share online
Take control of your privacy and your online reputation by following a few basic principles:
Review all your online content, and remove anything that could expose too much personal information, be an embarrassment to you in the future or be used to negatively impact your reputation. This includes deleting messages on your social network from friends if their comments could impact you.
Ask your friends to remove any photos or comments that are on their sites that have the potential to cause you trouble.
Prune your contact lists. If there are people you are sharing information with that you do not personally know and like, delete them. Yes, this can cause some digital drama, but you do not want to give people access to your information unless you can fully trust them to be respectful and protective of you.
Take time to evaluate what information you are willing to share, and what you are not willing to share, then before you push the publish button, review your content from this perspective. It is very easy to publish information but far more difficult to take it back once it’s been made public.
Talk to your friends about your privacy boundaries, and ask them about their own. It is rude and disrespectful to post comments, share photos or videos, or in any way expose information about someone else that they are not fully comfortable with having shared. When in doubt, ask. If someone doesn’t want to respect you and your privacy, they aren’t a real friend.
Lastly, it’s important to not only remove personal information and potentially negative information, you need to also build a positive online profile that shows others the best of you – whether that be potential friends, colleagues, employers, schools or family members.