Social media`s hidden depth – your personal life and your private information.

How much of your personal life or private information should you post to social media?

In response to recent events in the media, social media consultant Peter Sutton was interviewed by Mandy Page from Sydney`s TripleM radio on their breakfast show.

As it transpires there has been some social media attention as well as terrestrial media attention surrounding Australia`s recent ‘same-sex-marriage’ plebiscite vote. People have been posting to social media, their opinions and thoughts for discussion and for some it’s not helping out their case in a number of aspects, with one worker finding themselves unemployed because of their published views.

Other reports indicate that people have been posting photos of their voting papers, complete with private information and bar codes, which is a breach of personal security and an open invitation to identity theft.


So – we have to ask what compels various individuals to post their personal information onto social media?

Well bearing in mind that we are verging on the deep psychological reasons and aspects of why people do anything – with that in mind there are probably 3-4 reasons that drive people to post on social media.

What really stands out – and it is a primary motivator that causes people to gravitate to platforms like social media – is peoples need to feel self fulfilled, to assert their identity.

For many this kind of individual expression can only come by occupying a personal position relative to a publicly held stance. Supporting a political, religious or organizational ideal aligns with these impulses to individuate in a very popular almost tribal way.

It’s ironic that the ideals we employ to unite us as a community becomes the very substance of what divides us. This is one of the primary challenges that we face socially, to understand each other by talking frankly and openly but with respect and to find reasonable resolutions to these social issues. It’s important to maintain a balance and so some focus should also be around what unites us too – if we don’t maintain a balanced outlook, what we end up with is propaganda.

Previously, in the pre social media world, people would have had these conversations while doing the shopping, over a cup of coffee or drinks at a bar. Now we have a much greater voice and wider reach which makes social media technology really attractive for this kind of motivation.

Couple that with the work done by developers to make the technology so easy to use that even a child with limited language skills can still work mamas phone.

All you need is someone with a couple of pictures and a fire in their fingertips and yes they will post, seeking the satisfaction that comes with expressing a personal opinion in a public forum.


People need to feel connected to a wider community.

This is the second main reason that people gravitate to social media. Social media provides the opportunity to discuss with like minded people who again reaffirm your chosen identity.

When people attach themselves to a cause or a belief they can become enchanted by the reach and scope these social media tools provide to reach an audience. Impassioned and empowered by their beliefs and opinions they get caught up in the moment and perhaps post content that others may consider inappropriate, unwise or just a bit too personal or private.

What is appropriate to post and what is not –  is a grey area and the lines between them are blurred and open for discussion as they are themselves merely opinions being expressed.


So what are the differences between our personal private lives and our public persona – how do we draw a distinction?

Mobile devices are prevalent and present themselves as personal devices for private use but what is not so obvious is how well connected they actually are to very public arenas.

People manage much of their personal private lives from their mobiles, call their kids, call their parents, grandparents organise social gatherings with friends.

The Advertising industry loves all this activity and tries to capture as much of it as they can as it allows them to exploit the vast rich information your internet activity generates.

They are really interested in blurring the lines between what is private and what is public in order help you buy products you might be interested in.


There is an unwritten law of the internet – if a product is Free, then You are the product.

It gets tricky for a lot of people because you are constantly being encouraged by advertisers, organizations and institutions to provide your personal opinion in order to elicit more personal and private information about you.

This information once in the public arena then buffers up against an individuals right to say something.

What we are beginning to see is that organizations have worked really hard to try and uphold professional standards and by default their employees, representatives or workers become responsible for upholding similar values. As an employee it has become important to be aware of the public face of the ideals and values of the company who employs you.

Younger people see their private and public lives as synonymous and therefore do not make any distinction whatsoever between them.

The same can be said of older people but for different reasons. Older people tend not understand the impact that social media is having on their lives – they may post something without thinking that they are talking to an audience of potentially infinite size. So they post something which they see as simple and innocent within the context of their family group – they have forgotten what the technology can actually do and how it can spread a message very quickly.


Perhaps we have to ask ourselves – if it`s time to define our own personal digital policies to manage our online identities, to set up some rules for ourselves of what we will allow ourselves to post and comment on and what we won’t in order to safeguard our personal information, lives and identities to stay safe online.

Many people across social media platforms have taken to creating multiple identities in order to manage the lines of demarcation between their public and private lives.


So how do we maintain the integrity of our online identities ?

The best place to start is in your social media settings. It can be good to really read the privacy settings as you work through them and think about what they imply – who will see something I post – It’s also a good idea to check with your workplace and see if they have some kind of digital policy or digital behaviour guidelines in place.

You should also periodically go back and make sure your social media settings are the way that you want them. Often when social media software updates itself, it will reset settings back to their default setting which is always wide open, its another unwritten law of the internet that the default setting is always wide open.

And remember – it’s probably not a good idea to Facebook friend your boss or if you do create a new social media account to interact on behalf of your public life.

Source : Mandy Page for Breakfast – TripleM Radio Interview

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