Published on March 13th, 2013 | by Amy Edwards0
Your Social Self – Are You Giving Away Too Much Online?
By Amy @BubbleJobs
From sharing the latest Grumpy Cat meme on your friend’s wall to tweeting about your latest exercise triumph, there’s no denying social media is our platform of choice for sharing and declaring… in fact, in most cases we don’t even need an excuse to tweet, post or message – if something’s on our mind, we’ll post it online in some form or another. In 2013 social networks are our go-to communication channel and, in some cases, they can even act as natural extension of our personalities, giving us a unique online persona.
Now, we’re all guilty of using some form of social networking and probably posting more than we need to – and there’s nothing technically wrong with that… but have you ever stopped to think about how much of yourself you actually give away online? I hadn’t given it a second thought and certainly had never worried about it… until a few months ago when the first episode in the second series of Black Mirror aired.
Black Mirror – “Be Right Back”
If you’ve been living under a rock since the turn of the new year and you’ve not heard or seen it, “Be Right Back” tells the story of a young widow whose husband is killed in a car crash. Devastated and unwilling to let go, she ends up signing up to an online service where she can digitally reconnect to her dead husband in a chat room, deriving his personality from his social media profiles.
Now, I’m not going to go into the details of what exactly happens 1. because you need to watch it yourself and 2. because it’s way too creepy and not all that unbelievable - but I do want to touch on some of the issues highlighted, namely the idea you could be digitally regenerated using entries you’ve made on your social media profiles.
In Black Mirror, the deceased husband’s personality was able to live on via an online chatroom and then via a phone call because he was essentially a social media addict. He tweeted and posted every day (sound familiar?!) and basically built up an elaborate online persona which could then be used to keep his spirit alive.
It goes without saying that Black Mirror was fictional along with its themes and stories… but just like the other episodes in the series, Charlie Brooker wanted us to stop and question our actions in modern society and, without getting too serious, I think he has a point. While we’re more security conscious than ever when it comes to things like online security and banking, we seem to let things slip when it comes to social networks.
Why Could Sharing Be Damaging?
Today we’re happy to share pretty much anything on social networks if we think someone out there might be interested. OK, so someone couldn’t hack into my bank account by knowing I managed to run four miles last night (it might not be a lot but it was good for me) or knowing I tweet about SEO or Content A LOT… but they could get to know me from afar.
Anyone could do quick search and find out my job, my age, my date of birth, my former employer and where I went to university for starters – and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Granted, there’s nothing wrong with complete strangers knowing a lot about us… as long as they then don’t use this information for their own benefit.
What am I talking about? Well we’ve all heard about people being burgled after they announced they were having a great time on holiday in Egypt on Facebook and people who have missed out on work opportunities after announcing they were headed to an interview with a rubbish company on Twitter… but things like this are just the tip of the iceberg! Thanks to social networks, there’s more information about us online ever before… and while the themes identified in Black Mirror might be fictional, the idea that you could imitate someone based on their social media entries isn’t all that far-fetched.
Just yesterday there was a story in the news that suggested it was possible for someone to work out your political views, sexuality, drug use and religious beliefs based on your Facebook ‘likes’. Now, I’m not sure I fully believe this report… but it still ties in with the idea that we’re giving too much away online without even realising it.
Think about it; someone might not be able to hack into your bank but based on your tweets and posts they could easily imitate you and use your online persona for all the wrong reasons. OK, so they’d need to be able to access your accounts to actually imitate you on these networks… but if they know your email address they could easily imitate you elsewhere on the web… potentially damaging your good name and the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build up.
How Much Is Too Much?
When it comes to the question of “how much is too much?”, no one really has an answer… because we’re not quite there yet. The articles and episodes I mentioned above merely touch on the potential hazards and risks of sharing parts of yourself on social networks – and at the moment it’s still a fairly new issue.
Needless to say it’s not got to the point yet where people are saying that XX tweets a day and XX Facebook posts a day are too much… but thanks to the onslaught of Big Data I don’t think we’re actually that far off. In the mean time, it might just be worth thinking twice before you send your next tweet or post… after all, you never know how or even where it might be used in the future!