How Much is too Much to Share on Social Media?

When over-sharing becomes deadly

To share or not to share has become the new, ultimate dilemma of the human experience – online at least. Equally important (and often overlooked), however, is knowing what not to do on social media – especially when other people are involved.

I normally write about social media from a business perspective but sometimes it’s personal. Oh, who am I kidding – everything about social media is personal. That’s why it works…

Shooting a picture in a crowded mall, bus terminal or airport lounge are as common as out of work actors – and about as memorable too. But once in a while, a video or picture ignites a tsunami of attention. And if it’s your video that goes viral, are you lucky? Or are you accountable for the damage after the tsunami fades away.

When sharing hurts

We’ve written about negativity online before but over-sharing is slightly different. Often, the person posting thinks their video or picture is funny. And the thought process stops there. Which is the problem. You might remember the story of texting woman who fell in the fountain in January, 2011. The incident was caught on mall security cameras and put on YouTube by a couple of employees. I guess they thought posting on YouTube was more important than coming to the woman’s aide…

News media caught hold of the story as hundreds of thousands of people laughed at the woman. She was recognizable in the video and very quickly identified. Not surprisingly, she sued the company that employed the security guards and the video was eventually removed from YouTube.

I’m guessing her life will never be quite the same though.

When sharing kills

You might think I’m being melodramatic but bullying online is a very real problem. There have been far too many stories of teens postingpictures of their “friends” on social media and using those pictures to publicly shame and ridicule. Tragically, some of those incidents have led to suicides.

Posting a picture to shame a company can have an equally devastating effect. In 2010, a young man posted a picture of a TTC (Toronto Transit Commision) worker asleep at the job. The man in question had been a long-time employee of the company and shortly after the picture was taken, he left his job because of illness. He recently passed away.

To say that his death can be directly blamed on the public shaming would be as irresponsible as the man who originally posted the picture. But I bet if you asked his family, they’d be happy to draw a parallel.

I’m also guessing the man who took the picture would think twice if he had to do it again.

Smart sharing

There’s so much about social media I love but the dark side of social media scares me for business and personally. I don’t believe social media makes us more reckless or stupid but I do think it gives way to carelessness. Posting online without thinking through the “what-if” scenarios can have devastating effects.

My personal rule of thumb when posting ANYTHING online is that if I wouldn’t want it broadcast on national TV with my name attached to it, it doesn’t belong there. It also works when I think of my mom – if I’d be embarrassed saying it in front of her, it stays in my head rather than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

What’s your litmus test when it comes to posting online?


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5 Responses to “How Much is too Much to Share on Social Media?”

  1. Jacki says:

    My big test is “will I be ok if my kids eventually see/read this?”. I know stuff can stay on the interwebs forever. I also draw the line when it’s not really my story. There is a lot I don’t publish. I write a lot more than I share. Having said that, I share a lot. I’ve exposed myself on the internet – literally and figuratively. I haven’t regretted any of those personal stories. Yet, anyway.

    I did have to permission-base my original blog due to some unwanted attention after I ranted about a certain book. And it led to my blog being the top google search for some unsavoury searches. With pictures of my kids right there.

    I also ask “Will this hurt anyone?” If the answer is yes, it stays on paper.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jacki – you raise a lot of good points here. I try to remember that we’re all still learning this and that it’s not intuitive. We are changing how we live our lives and there’s bound to be mis-steps and stumbles. But when it comes to posting stuff that might potentially hurt someone, I’m right there with you. Your moral compass has to constantly be consulted – it’s too late after it’s shared. It’s a little thing called integrity…

      And for what it’s worth, your bravery is inspiring and I’m in awe of you – both online and off!

  2. John Lusher says:

    This is a great post, and a very important topic for us all that use, consume and work in social media. As practitioners of this media, I believe it is up to us to do all we can to stop or intervene when we see people sharing things online that are not appropriate or can hurt others. We all were picked on or bullied as kids; but it has taken a turn for the worse. Not only the bullying in school or in life, but now it is online for the world to see. I can understand and see why younger people, and sometimes adults, get so despondent; the entire world is watching people make fun of them. We all must be careful to not overshare, but at the same time we need to police this media and help stop this from happening to anyone else.

    Thank you for posting this Julia!

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hi John,

      Thank YOU – I love the ideas in your comments. The word despondent struck me as being the word I was missing. I’ve talked to so many people who feel alone in social media. When their posts go left unread or unresponded to, it can feel like you’re the only one in the crowd that no one is talking too. This issue is far too large to cover in one post – or even one conversation – but I’m so glad we’re starting somewhere. Reaching out and sharing ourselves is what makes social media so magical – here’s to working hard to keep that magic alive!

  3. Stephanie says:

    This gave me lots to think about. I’ve recently started blogging, not only as a way to help me, but to help others know they are not alone with their problems.

    Knowing I am “putting myself out there” is one hurdle to pass. Knowing others are reading it, becomes the next hurdle. But reality hits even quicker when you actually know some of the people, personally. I was very scared of that hurdle, but I managed to get over it too.

    I think it’s very important to think about the impact you have on others. What you may see as a little bump in life, could be the mountain others can’t climb.

    I’m glad I found you! I truly hope others get the message.

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