In this age of social media domination, we have become massive communicators who are constantly sending and receiving information. This sharing of information has arguably sparked a sort of cultural Renaissance—ideas and information are spread at a rate and volume that has never been experienced before.There are arguments on both sides of this fact, proponents pointing out things like political movements that have been sparked and fueled by social media; while opponents cite issues such as childhood obesity rates, increased bullying and pointing the finger at our obsession with technology. Wherever you stand on social media, it is undeniable how rapidly the cyber landscape is evolving and that we are along for the ride.
However, there is an element of social media that is important to think about: oversharing. With oversharing, I’m not talking about your co-worker who posts all day on Facebook about everything from what time she woke up, to what flavor soup she brought for lunch. (Thankfully Facebook allows you to ‘hide’ these over-posters from your newsfeed.) No, the oversharing I’m referring to is putting personal information into cyberspace that could jeopardize your safety. This is particularly important with location-based social media, which is the majority of them now.
Imagine this: Richard has 357 “friends” on Facebook. Of the 357, he knows 232 really well, these are his friends, co-workers, family, etc. Another 53 he’s met in person once or twice and knows on a first name basis. These could be people he’s met on a business trip, at a ball game, etc. The rest are friends of friends or friend requests of people he really doesn’t know, but was on a friending binge when he joined in 2009! Based on Richard’s posts we know he is recently married, and lives with his wife and dog close to downtown. It’s seemingly benign to post these things, right? Well, then Richard posts that he recently got a bonus and bought a new 60″ smart TV and a new MacBook Pro. A week later, he tweets, “Off to Cancun with the wife for a week! So excited! :)” Now, while Richards livin’ large with a Corona in Cancun, the cyber world knows he has some sweet stuff in his house, where he lives and that no one will be in the house for a week. Richard might as well have just tweeted, “Dear burglars, PLEASE come rob my house!”. And one of those not really friend, friends? That’s Martin.
Foursquare, Facebook, Yelp*, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Untappd, etc. all have ways for users “check in” to a place where they are, this tells your friends and followers where you are and can facilitate an in person meet up. But it also can be used by trolling thieves to know where you are and more importantly, where you aren’t…your home.
But how can someone know where you live if you DON’T ever “check-in” at home? Well, those photos you take of your adorable cat oftentimes have “metadata” in them that includes the location where the photo was taken. And you don’t have to be the one that “checks-in”; friends and family may do so when you have a party. That gives your home location too. So now people know where you live and when you’re not home. Again, “Dear Martin, please rob me.” Even if you have homeowners insurance, and are covered in the event of theft, it’s still a hassle you do not want to deal with. Social media apps and websites are fun and you are often awarded badges and statements that end in exclamation points telling you how cool you are. It’s a total ego boost! The flip side of these services is that you have to be cautious. This can go for most things, but think before you share personal information AND make sure to lock down your social media accounts to ensure you are only sharing your life with people you know and trust.