It’s easy to forget sometimes how much time we spend plugged into various social networks. It’s also easy to forget how easily we can share too much information on networks like Facebook and Twitter, and how that information can come back to hurt us in the future.

Some of the dangers associated with sharing too much information include identity theft and the chance of damaging your professional reputation. While first looking at these dangers in a little more depth, it’s possible to think through some of the ways in which you can protect yourself online.

The clearest problem associated with being on social networks is that many people forget who is allowed to see their information. You may have added people several years ago that you only knew briefly, and they might have friends that can still see your information.

On a more extreme level, your personal details, accidentally shared, might be pieced together by someone looking to hack into your bank details. Information shared on Twitter and other networks also can’t be completely deleted, even if you realise later that it shouldn’t be there – retweeting and cached sites can make it very difficult to completely remove accidents.

Employers also use social networks as a way of checking the public reputation of applicants. An embarrassing photograph or joke from a few years ago might come back to haunt you, while you may make an unguarded comment about a job interview that could cost you a position.

Moreover, by using geolocational apps on your smartphone, you run the risk of sharing information about your location that can be taken advantage of by anyone looking to break into your address. On one level, oversharing might, then, just result in some annoying spam, but can lead to more serious problems.

Protecting Yourself

The first step when dealing with social networks and your privacy is to always be aware of who you’re posting to. Is your post only going out to friends and family, or can it be read by other people? Similarly, have you double checked that a direct message on Twitter hasn’t accidentally appeared on your feed?

Don’t assume that information you may have entered into social networks that you no longer use isn’t still available for anyone to search for. Similarly, remember that friends and family could just as easily share your information without you knowing, or tag you in photos that you don’t want to be seen in.

In general, it’s best to always think twice before you share anything, especially if it might offend someone. When dealing with social networks, it’s also important to avoid clicking on any links that you’re not sure of – assume that any email that seems to be from a social network could be spam, especially if it asks you to update your details. Also make sure that you don’t use the same password for all of your social networks, as losing it could end up affecting all of your accounts and causing you a lot of problems resolving mistakes.