They say sharing is caring, but do you care about what you share?
Today we will talk about sharing things on social media, most notably on Facebook. I choose Facebook as the main target for this due to the higher exposure of images and other sensitive material and the ease of finding out other things about the person sharing it. This makes the Facebook sharing particularly sensitive to what I am writing here.
There are two major issues with sharing that I will take up, the first and probably most dangerous (in a sense) is unintentional sharing or unknown automatic sharing. I’ve talked a bit about this in the past. This is when information is shared to social medias without your knowledge and, a lot of times, you won’t even notice it until someone in your circle of friends comments about it. The most prominent example, and probably the most harmless. is the automatic sharing of statistics from your Facebook games. If you haven’t told the app to not publish to your timeline, it will spam out a diversity of facts about your progress, from what booster you just bought to what level you’re currently stuck at. This would really only be harmful if you’re doing it while you’re supposed to be working, but that’s more your problem than a problem with the sharing.
There are other apps where this could become a problem though. You’d be surprised how sensitive some information could be. In the earlier article I talked about the running apps that give a detailed map of your regular running routes, times and dates, down to the second, and shares it on your Facebook wall. This is obviously really bad, since it allows people who might want to harm you to find out where you live and where you hang out. But this isn’t restricted to those apps. In fact, you don’t need a map to find that out. Some restaurants and stores have discount apps that gives you a percentage off every purchase if you use it. Those usually post your location and time to Facebook when you walk into the store.
Several photography apps also automatically share every picture you take. There was an incident with a Swedish politician in the summer of 2012 who took a picture with his phone and it got automatically shared. He did not know this and the picture was meant as a picture for the family album. In a family album, full frontal nudity by the summer house might be acceptable, but not on Facebook. Since he was on vacation, it took several hours for him to notice that he had shown his junk to the whole world, and the picture got shared far and wide. You don’t need to be a top-name politician to want to keep your pictures safe from prying eyes.
Every job coach will tell you this: Be careful what you do on social media! The reason for this is that potential employers often look you up online and one of the first links they’ll get when they look for you is your Facebook wall. Here they can puzzle together an image of who you are quite easily. This is where news apps are potentially dangerous. If you have certain political interests, you’ll most likely read certain online newspapers. Many apps have automatic sharing of the articles you read, and this isn’t restricted to mobile apps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found one of my friends reading a particular newspaper because all the articles are automatically shared to both Twitter and Facebook. If you read a left-wing, union-friendly newspaper, that might harm your chances to get an employment. If you read a right-wing newspaper with controversial views, that might harm your social life as well. There is a reason why registering opinions is illegal in many countries!
This brings us to the second category of shocking sharing: shocking images!
Facebook requires their users to be at least 16 years old, but that doesn’t mean everyone who sees a Facebook wall is that age. A prime example has been brought up before: the parents who let their kids play games on their account. Another example is the parent sitting in the living room, checking their Facebook, while the kids play or watch TV in the background.
This is why things like nudity, explicit content and gore are forbidden in the Facebook TOS. When someone says “Share this to make these criminals famous,” it is usually a trap to share particularly gory images. The picture usually depicts beheaded animals, extremely bruised, beaten or scared people and things like that. First off, that’s not very nice to see when you’re about to eat lunch, but it can also be traumatizing for a kid to see. When your friend shares such images, don’t comment on it!
As soon as you interact with the picture in any way, whether it be direct sharing, liking it or just commenting on it, the picture will be shown on your wall for all your friends to see. When one of your friends interacts with it, it will be shared to their friends and the image gets spread far and wide. There is a big chance several of the people that get to see the image have children nearby.
It might be tempting to share that article about that beaten woman, that horrific tattoo scar or that abused pet, just to share the message as far as possible, but think before sharing it. When pressing the “Share this” on the article itself, the first picture of the article (which is most often the most gory) will be the one shown above the link on your wall. You can copy the link from the address bar of your browser instead and manually put it in your Facebook status. You’ll see a preview and often there are several images to choose from. Select one that isn’t inappropriate or select the option to not have an image at all and put a small warning in the status.
Many will say “just ignore it, there’s a button for that,” but that doesn’t work. The image is visible until that button is pressed and by then it might be too late. This is why it’s your duty to make sure the picture you’re about to put on your wall (intentionally or not) is safe for everyone to see. It is much easier for you to make sure the picture is safe than it is for all your friends to “unsee” what you just showed them.
A little bit of forethought goes a long way! Check your sharing settings, make sure sensitive things aren’t shared to everyone and check the images on articles before posting them and everyone will have a better day.