Almost everyone uses social media nowadays. In 2021, it was projected that there were around 4.26 billion social media users worldwide. That number is expected to rocket to almost 6 billion by 2027, which is 80% of the current world population. With social media being a very normal and prominent part of our daily lives, it can be difficult knowing where to draw the line when it comes to what you share online. 

We all know someone who posts one too many photos to get more likes on Instagram or checks into every location they visit on Facebook. While this may all seem like a fun way to digitally document your life, there are some real risks involved when there is too much information about yourself online.

Your privacy matters

There were many discussions recently about privacy on social media platforms. Facebook, the world's largest social media network, found itself in hot water after failing to protect users' personal data in the Cambridge Analytica incident. As a result, more people are becoming cautious about the information they choose to disclose online. Cybersecurity measures, such as a free VPN, are increasingly being used to address privacy issues. 

While there are options to keep your social media profiles private to the general public, there is always the possibility that your accounts could be part of a data leak or even the target of malicious hackers. You may not think information such as your phone number, email, or the last location you were tagged in to be adjacent to your personal safety, however, this information in the wrong hands could be dangerous.

An email or phone number on your social media might not fall under the scope of oversharing, especially if you regularly check your privacy settings, but this is not necessarily the information you want to share with everyone and anyone. 

What exactly is so risky about oversharing?

The biggest risk when it comes to oversharing online is that criminals have the opportunity to learn important information about you. This can include:

  • Posting pictures from your current trip may notify criminals that you are currently away from home. If they already know your normal location, your house may become a target for thieves.
  • Photos or information about family members may reveal their identities, place of work, and location. This can be done without their consent and could potentially make them a target for criminals.
  • Sharing photos of your home or hobbies may unwittingly expose to thieves that you have expensive items such as art, jewelry, valuable devices, or attractive collections.
  • Your password or security questions could be guessed using information from your life or past. "What was the name of your first pet?" or "Where did you go to high school?" are examples of popular security questions that hackers may frequently discover answers to by conducting a simple social media search on their target.

Many of us don’t think about the dangers of sharing something as innocent as a photo with our friends, however, we can inadvertently put our privacy at risk. It’s also worth remembering that once something is shared online, it is out there forever.

What can I do to protect my privacy?

The first step to protecting your privacy is to read your privacy settings and lock down your accounts. You can set your profiles to private and filter through any requests to follow your social media profiles to only people you know. There is also the option to restrict access to your photo albums on platforms such as Facebook to just family and friends. 

To reduce the risk of your passwords or security questions being easily guessed by hackers, turn on Two-Factor Authentication. This will dramatically decrease the chances of someone gaining access to your account as this requires a code for login from one of your trusted devices. 

A VPN is another great tool to protect privacy and security when accessing social media. If you frequently access your social media accounts while in public areas such as cafés or airports, you are likely connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi. Hotspots like this are the perfect opportunity for hackers to intercept your traffic and gain access to your personal data. VPNs ensure that all your traffic passes through an encrypted tunnel, securing your connection and your device. 

The bottom line

Be mindful of what you may unintentionally share online. Oversharing on social media can have negative implications for both you and those around you. With the risk of our personal data being stolen or misused, it is advisable to make the safest choice when determining what to share on social media.