From modest beginnings, Social Media has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon familiar to millions of people. It has been used to reconnect old friends, classmates and business acquaintances, to promote one’s products and services, and to discuss a variety of subjects and share files. As we should all know by now, it has been used to coordinate flash mobs, protests, and topple governments. Many people are addicted to it, others couldn’t care less, but we certainly cannot ignore it. The big question though is, if we are going to use it, how much of ourselves do we really want to reveal?

There are numerous services available for social media, both large and small. The more popular ones include FaceBook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, MySpace and many others. For all of these, a person can provide as much detail about themselves as they want. There is, of course, the usual profile identifiers, such as name, address, e-mail, birth date, etc. A user can also add a profile photo and biographical sketch. Above and beyond this, users can post their interests, thoughts, politics, religion or just about anything else they want which can be viewed by anyone connected to the person or possibly the world. We can also describe and discuss our “likes” representing our areas of interest.

Such background data represents a treasure trove of information to a variety of people. Marketeers use it to fine-tune advertising campaigns and pinpoint likely purchasers of their products. If you are being considered for a job, your profiles are being studied by Human Resource Departments. If you are arrested, the first place the police and media will go is your social media accounts and analyze anything and everything you have said, good or bad, and possibly draw conclusions from them. Sexual or criminal predators will also use this intelligence to their advantage (“Oh, so he’ll be out of town this weekend, eh? Hmm, sounds like a good time to check out his house.”) And in all likelihood, the government is monitoring postings in order to sniff out terrorist and troublemakers before they cause a problem. Social media is simply an invaluable part of detective work in the electronic age.

Do not take your postings lightly. Do you really want to swear or offer an obscene gesture on-line? I know of a young woman who was close to graduating from college. On a lark, she posted a Halloween photo of herself in a revealing “Cat Woman” leather outfit. Her college buddies may have gotten a kick out of it, but for some strange reason she couldn’t seem to get a job after graduation…until she took the photo down and cleaned up her profile. Coincidence? Hardly.

As for me, I only volunteer what I want the world to know, nothing more, nothing less. Although I can hardly be accused of being politically correct, I do not post anything that may cause me to blush or be used in a court of law. Even though I consider myself to be an honest person, I am mindful there are many others out there on the Internet who may not possess the same scruples as I do. I guess it all depends on how much you want the world to know about yourself. Just remember, before you open your kimono to the public, know what you are going to reveal and who you are going to reveal it to.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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