From Selfies to Self-Awareness: Avoid Oversharing Online

It’s natural to want to share good news with your social networks—just be careful about how much you’re sharing.

It’s natural to want to share good news with your social networks—just be careful about how much you’re sharing.

Do you know someone who feels the need to share every detail of his life on social media with little or no regard to who might be watching? You’ve manage-digital-lifeprobably seen one of these recently: “Check out this awesome driver’s license photo!” “This has been the best birthday ever!” “I can’t believe I’m going to own THIS house!”

From your sister, who constantly broadcasts her current location, to your high school friend, whose Instagram is peppered with photos of big-ticket purchases and exotic vacations, you likely have someone on your friends list who overshares. And let’s be honest: Maybe it’s you who’s oversharing. Just beware that oversharing can make life easier for identity thieves.

So what can you do to make sure you aren’t putting yourself at risk? Start by considering the information you’re voluntarily sharing, and other information your devices might be sharing for you.

Here are a few tips.

Keep the very personal information offline. While most people know to keep things like social security numbers and their mother’s maiden name private, the growing body of information posted online could be used against you.

These personal facts are making life easier for identity thieves, according to the Better Business Bureau. Reconsider sharing things like full name, birth date, current employer, family member names, and of course your home address.

But there’s also information that many of us share in passing that can help identity thieves answer your password retrieval questions. According to a recent study by Javelin Strategies, a research and consulting company, you may want to rethink sharing your hometown, marital status, schools attended and even your pet’s name.

Think hard about the photos you post, and the information provided with them. It’s natural to want to share good news with your social networks—just be careful about how much you’re sharing. For instance, try an Instagram search for the hashtag #driverslicense, and you’ll see a lot of smiling faces waving that new license, and the personal information on it, at the camera.

Others are so excited to share a picture of a birthday meal that they don’t spot their credit card in the corner of the frame. Next time you’re uploading a photo, make sure that there is absolutely no personal information in sight.

Review your social networks’ privacy settings on a regular basis. While social media evolve, so do privacy settings. One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re sharing safely on social media is keeping up with privacy updates as they happen.

Facebook said in April that it had changed its privacy settings in response to user demand. According to CNN, it’s now possible to select more specific audiences for status updates and make cover photos private. There’s now a pop-up notification for users who haven’t reviewed privacy updates, reminding them to know who can see their pages.

Turn off location-based apps. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all allow users to pinpoint their precise whereabouts with geolocation tags. If you haven’t turned the setting off, posting a status update from the couch could broadcast your address to the world. According to, identity thieves can use your address as one of the necessary pieces of financial data to verify and steal your identity. Know how to turn off geolocation on all of your devices before posting your thoughts on “Mad Men.”

Facebook offers step-by-step instructions for turning off this feature. According to Twitter, the geolocation feature is off by default, and can easily be turned off if it’s been turned on.

It can be hard not to share everything good, bad or frustrating on social media networks. But these steps can help mitigate the risks of having your identity compromised—whether you’re sharing your latest 5K time or a picture of a particularly decadent dessert.