personal brand

Why do people share so much personal information online?

The other day I asked a colleague, in the shared working space I use, what she would like to know more about and it started a conversation about what people share online and why they feel compelled to, or comfortable, sharing it. This is a topic that I really enjoy talking about, so today I’m going to delve in a bit further as to why I think some people over share and why I think it’s important for you to think through what you’re sharing online.

Private discussions have found their way online

In years past, people sat around in their living rooms and backyards having heated discussions about all sorts of things, often voicing controversial opinions. While these conversations still happen, they‘ve also moved online. The problem with this is that instead of having a small private conversation amongst a few friends that conversation is now accessible to the public, potentially forever.

Do you believe that every opinion that you have should be available to the general public? I know I certainly don’t.

I believe people are sharing their opinions thinking that they’re only talking the way they always have and not taking into account or understanding Google’s reach. Google doesn’t forget things, including the comment you left on a blog post way back in 2007 (I found a few of those when working on this post ;) ). 

This means that making a conscious decision about what information and which opinions you share online is very important. While you may very well be willing to share your opinions online, the key is to make a conscious decision and realize that a permanent record of that opinion can be accessed by anyone.

Why does it matter if we say controversial things online?

The things that we say impact the way people view us. This is key. How do you want to be perceived by the people who can find you online? 

You need to think about who might end up looking you up. Potential employers, potential employees, and potential clients are all likely candidates to do a bit of searching online to get to know you better.  What will they find?

When you Google yourself, would you be happy for a future employer/partner/employee to find everything that you find?

How well are we adapting?

While some people are very careful about what they post online, many don’t take into consideration that what they say online can impact how people view them. For example, many people would never say anything they believe to sound racist, but do they realize that complaining about work online could impact future employment? Do they realize that constant negative commentary could affect someone’s opinion of their overall attitude and how they would fit on a team? Taking that a step further, do they realize what they say about other people (including their children) can have a lasting impact on other people’s reputations?

Here’s an interesting infographic on some of the things people share online:

More and more, we want and need to be online personally and professionally. Understanding how to do that responsibly is a step many people haven’t yet taken. Take some time to figure out what you want people to think about you (this is your personal brand) and whether or not your actions convey the same message.

What do you think about what people share online? Do people share more than they should?


Are you wrecking your reputation?

Karen and I spent much of the summer working on some courses for Algonquin College and one of the main topics that I covered was about responsible online behaviour.  It’s a fascinating topic and one I think we all need to be reminded of on a regular basis.

Here’s the thing…  we are living in a whole new world and most of us have no idea what we’re doing and what the impact of what we’re doing will be.   We need to really think about the information that we’re putting online and what that means. You’ll need to keep this in mind not just on your business pages but on your personal accounts because whether you like it or not, what you have to say during your personal time and use of social media can easily affect your business life.

People judge you

We all do it. When people post things online we get an impression and that impacts how we view that person overall.  That means that you need to decide whether what you’re posting online is representative of how you want people to see you.  

I know of several stories where entrepreneurs have lost business because a potential client was turned off by some of the things they were saying on Facebook or Twitter that had nothing to do with their business.  Those potential clients decided that they didn’t want to work with someone with that kind of personality or attitude.

Are they really your friends?

People seem to feel an undeserved sense of safety when they are posting on Facebook because it’s only going to their friends, not the general public. But who are your friends?

The average Facebook user has over 100 friends (the stats differ a lot, but some say the average is as high as almost 300).  Most of us are “friends” with a lot more people than just our close circle of family and friends. Always think about who you’re talking to and whether you would say what you’re about to say on Facebook if you were standing at a networking event with a group of acquaintances.

Be intentional

It all comes down to one thing.  Post whatever you want online - just make sure that you have thought about what you’re posting.  Consciously realize that what you’re saying has impact and once you’ve done that, go ahead and post photos of your kids, of you out drinking, or on vacation.  Go ahead and talk about politics or how angry you are at this person or that business. 

Nobody is telling you that you can’t be real or that you can’t be yourself, just understand that your online you needs to be just as aware of the impression you’re giving off as you are when you’re not online. 

Set rules

I have guidelines I’ve set for myself.  I am ok with posting photos of my family and vacations.  I’m ok with sharing information about my career through my personal channels.  I don’t swear online.  I try to stay away from overly controversial topics but I judge that on a case-by-case basis.   I don’t vent online.

Examine your content – are you happy with it? If so, that’s great, keep at it.  But if any red flags pop up, spend some time thinking about what your own guidelines should be.

Leave a comment below and let me know if you have any personal guidelines or if you have ever had your impression of someone change based on what they shared online?