Social media can do a lot of good for the world, like connecting long-distance family members or raising awareness about causes or issues. It can also provide a platform for some major mistakes that can cost you big time. If you want to keep your life drama free, but just can’t delete that Facebook account, take the next seven suggestions to heart to avoid embarrassing—or even tragic—public humiliations.
1. Always Be Aware of Your Privacy Settings
If you’re connected to your friends through the internet and want to vent about something, it can be good to let your words fly on social media. Just make sure you check your privacy settings on all accounts and posts before you do. Some accounts have settings for your whole profile, while others give you the option to change who sees every post. It’s worth looking into before you hit that send button!
2. Don’t Post About Everything
So you got a cute salad for lunch and think it’d make a good Instagram post. Go ahead, share that gorgeous strawberry quinoa beauty with the world. Are you tempted to complain for the millionth time about your neighbor’s dog barking at night? Maybe just grumble that to yourself. There are actually guides that exist to help frame the best times to post and how often, just don’t overload your friends with the same information every day.
3. And Don’t Believe Every Post You See
People often use social media to make their lives seem more pleasant than they actually are. This can be therapeutic for some, but others use a fake social media front to wreak havoc. This month alone, Facebook took down 30,000 fake news accounts in France before their national election to make sure people got the right information. It can be difficult to spot a fake profile or story, and that can seriously hurt people. Make sure you do your research before accepting a follow request or sharing a post.
4. Imagine Shouting It with a Bullhorn
When you get close to going on vacation, the excitement can be overwhelming. You can practically feel the beach wind in your face and the sand between your toes, and you may want to post about it. Make sure you trust who sees it, though. It’s common for burglars to target victims who post about vacationing, because they know the home or apartment is empty. Review your privacy settings or save the vacation stories for after you get back.
5. Picture Your Boss Reading It
You may be looking for a job or you may already have one, but either way, social media plays a big role in the workplace. Employers often look up potential employees on the internet to get a sense of their character before ever calling them for an interview. Sadly, it’s also becoming more routine to hear about people getting fired for making bad posts on social media about their job or their boss. Think twice before complaining that you’re the only one who buys paper towels for the kitchen!
6. Keep Some Things Between You and Your Doctor
It’s great to have a place where there’s so many people to ask for help from (“Any mom friends know how to wean a kid off using a pacifier?”), but some information needs to be kept to yourself. And don’t think you can just friend your doctor and they’ll answer your health questions. Often times, doctors and other health professionals can’t connect with patients on social media to maintain their ethical standards. Give them a call instead of tweeting about your toe fungus.
7. Learn When to Walk Away
When you wake up in the morning, is your first instinct to reach for your phone post about how you slept last night? It might be time for you to take a break. Turn off your notifications or delete your apps altogether. If you only use your accounts on your computer, log out completely so you can catch yourself before logging back in. Sometimes the only way to avoid a problem is to completely cut out the potential for one.
It may be hard to remember while you’re typing that subtweet about your coworker that while you may post it by yourself, the whole world can see what you put on the internet. Take an extra minute to consider how each post can affect you before you send them out, and you’ll never regret getting online.
Image: Sean MacEntee, CC-BY
Anum Yoon is Paste’s Unplugged columnist and a Philly-based blogger who founded Current On Currency.