What NOT to post on social media


For many of us social media has pervaded our lives, not only socially but as spaces to interact professionally within too. Ubiquitous access to mobile phones and connectivity means that we can access information any time and increasingly anywhere. Sharing news and information has become a daily activity. We are now producers and consumers of these updates.

The need to be ‘forever switched on’ to social media can be a blessing and a curse. The image above shared by Hootsuite on Twitter makes a tongue in cheek addition to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs adding WiFi and Battery. How many will admit that the very first thing you do in the morning is to check their phone…. Yes it is also your alarm, but didn’t you also take a sneaky peak at whether you had any new messages?! How do you feel when you suddenly realise the red bar is showing on your phone and you have forgotten to bring your phone charger or have no access to power?

We are sharing an increasing amount of information  and whilst this can be very beneficial we should also be mindful of what this can mean. Understanding this can help to slow us down and to think before we share.

Digital Footprint

Today the boundaries between social and professional blur online. We can be connected to friends, family and work colleagues in the same online spaces. In some spaces we might talk about our work and our social lives. Yes this also happens in the workplace, but prior to online connectivity those conversations stopped when we left work and new ones started with family or friends when we got home. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but just something to consider.

It is also important to consider the impact of what data we share. This is frequently referred to as our digital footprint, which can be both passive and active. A passive digital footprint is created when data is collected without the owner knowing, whereas active digital footprints are created when personal data is released deliberately by a user for the purpose of sharing information about oneself by means of websites or social media. (Wikipedia)

Tony Fish gives the following definition and refers to implicit and explicit data:

A Digital Footprint is the record of your interactions with the digital world and how the data that is left behind can be exploited. The interactions and data that create the digital footprint includes:-

  • The content a user leaves about themselves and the content that others leave about the user in the web. The user generated data and content includes blogs, comments left on public sites, photo’s or a profile up-loaded and content a user creates on a social networking site. The content left by other is the move from a user as a single individual to that user being part of the social group.
  • Explicit data from the interactions a user has with the web. This is where a users activities is captured, the types of details captured include web pages viewed, the frequency of visits along with the intervals between them, clicks, the time spent on each page, interactions with forms, landing pages, and downloadable content. In reality every click, mouse move, keystroke and interaction with the web (from a PC or mobile) can be captured and stored.
  • Implicit data or implied data such as IP address, who is ISP is, attention, location (physical and derived), reputation, context, call records, routes and routines, liking, friending, burst data, behaviour, and linking this (meta) data to other data. 
Digital Footprint - Tony FishImage source: David Fish


Below is a list of considerations and things you should not share or at the very least be careful about how you share:

Very personal conversations – who will read this? Would a private message be more suitable?

Holidays and social plans – much as we like to share the good things that happen in our lives, be careful about posting information that alerts the wider public that you are potentially leaving your house empty.

Multi-posting  – posting the same message on different sites is not always suitable. Social information may sit naturally on Facebook but does the message have the same value to those you are connected to in other professional social spaces?

Sensitive information – think before you share when posting information about your company or a court case when on jury duty. The implications can be serious.

Questionable photographs – it’s courteous to ask permission of others to share social photos. Don’t share anything that puts yourself or others in a bad light.

Personal information – don’t add your address and phone number to public status updates. It should be obvious but bank details and passwords are also a definite no-no!

Other people’s news – if this has not been shared by the individual, don’t assume you can share without asking e.g. a colleague/friend being considered for a new job – sharing could have a negative impact.

Unconfirmed news – it is important that information is verified.

Bad day news – social media is not the place to rant about your place of work, your boss, colleagues or customers.

Links you have not checked – take care to click on links to articles and videos to see they do lead to what you expect and that it is indeed worthy of sharing.

Anything you wouldn’t say to someone face to face – a good measure is also anything you wouldn’t say to your Grandmother or your Boss

Status updates – it’s a status not a diary. Don’t share everything!

Ask yourself:
“Is this post valuable to the connections you have in that social space?”

Note the answer may differ depending on the message,whether it is a social or professional post, and where you choose to share it. If in doubt, then don’t share it.



Pew Internet Digital Footprints

Tony Fish My Digital Footprint

Wikipedia Digital Footprint

About Sue Beckingham

A National Teaching Fellow, Educational Developer and Principal Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
This entry was posted in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s