Social Media has been around for more than a decade and each day, thousands of people are using it for the first time. While it’s been an incredible tool for communication, it’s frequently misused. Most people don’t realize that there are things they should never post on social media. The internet is full of people that use social media for things like spam, cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying, and identity theft. But regular well-intentioned people have also had their lives negatively impacted due to their own misuse of social media.
We’ve all witnessed friendships end over online political arguments, but social media can also impact your professional life. People have been fired and businesses have been boycotted over social media posts. We normally focus on the business impact of online technology on this site. But this is an exception as it’s important that you protect yourself and your loved ones in addition to your business. You may think that you’re not identifiable or have your security settings mastered to limit who sees your posts. But social media services are prone to two problematic realities. First, things break (or get hacked) so you may not have the protection you thought you did. Second, some services (such as Facebook) change their policies without notice and may expose your profile. So with that being said, let’s jump into the list of things you should never post on social media.
1. How displeased you are with your employer or a client.
Many people that work aren’t happy with their jobs. So naturally, they like to post about it online. Complaining about your job, boss, coworkers, etc… may make you feel better short term. However, it could potentially solve your problem by creating a new one — unemployment. Can you really get fired for bashing your boss on social? It does sound like conspiracy theory. But the internet is ripe with stories of people getting fired over social media comments about their coworkers. There was a case in 2010 in the Hunter region of Australia where six people were fired over Facebook comments about their bosses and coworkers.
TikTok is famous for getting people fired. A manager at Dollar General was fired in March 2022 for complaining about her working conditions on TikTok. What about whistleblowing? We recommend speaking with an employment lawyer ahead of time. They can review your employment contract and ensure you have proper protections in place. This is even more important when you’re self-employed. When you bad-mouth a client online, other potential clients are going to wonder whether you’ll do the same for them. If you are angry with someone and need to get it off your chest, then write it out on paper. You’ll feel better in a day or two and then you can run the paper through a shredder.
2. That you’re displeased with your spouse or significant other.
This should go without saying, but most of us have seen this. Again, it’s easy to take to social media when you can hold it in anymore. Words can hurt. But there’s a difference between saying something you really don’t mean in private and sharing the same comment to your hundreds (or thousands) of social media connections. Especially if what you post humiliates him or her. It’s okay to be annoyed with your significant other. Anyone that has been in a relationship can probably relate. But sharing your problems with mutual friends and relatives makes patching things up more difficult.
There are some cases where posting is appropriate, but again, you need to speak to an expert. If your partner did something so heinous that the relationship is irreparable and/or someone is in danger (you, your partner, your children, etc…), then a post may protect you. Again, these are rare circumstances such as abuse. If your spouse forgot your anniversary, it’s probably best for the two of you to address it in private.
3. Details of any illegal activities you’ve been involved in.
You might think it would be fun to break into a rival school, vandalize a statue, and take selfies of it. Sure, you might be a hero in your school. But when the police show up at your house after your selfie was reshared a couple of hundred times, things aren’t as fun. Potential employers and clients (as well as law enforcement) could be looking at your profile. So refrain from posting about smoking pot with your friends, how you break into buildings for B.A.S.E. jumping, or ripping off your local gas station.
4. That you’re going away.
This one may less obvious. Years ago, Oprah dedicated an entire show to people who were robbed while on vacation. One common theme among the victims was that they all posted about their trip on Facebook either before or while they were gone. The same holds true for concerts, day trips, and even weddings. You may trust your friends, but they may have friends that are not as trustworthy.
If you live in a “safe” neighborhood, a gated community, or an apartment complex with a security desk at the entrance, you might be okay. But it all depends on how much you trust your neighbors and the people who can see your posts online. There’s a reason why Nest Cameras and other alarm systems are so popular. So think twice before posting publically about your upcoming trip.
5. Your home address and phone number.
A simple web search can often yield this information. But posting it to your profile gives anyone with access to your profile easier access. Unless you limit your friends to just people you know well, it’s better to share this information privately. Even if you’re using Facebook events to invite friends over, use “Dan’s apartment” or “Jill’s house” rather than your actual address. Given the history of hacks and security policies with services like Facebook, you don’t want your address to show up in the wrong place. If you have a home-based business, invest in a P.O. Box or virtual address. Or, ask a friend or relative that has a business location if you can use the address for a small fee. Thieves may think you keep cash or expensive equipment at your home.
6. That you’re going somewhere when you’ve told people you’d be elsewhere.
This is a common mistake that people make. “No, I can’t make your cocktail party on Friday night because I’m working late.” Then when Friday night happens, you post a check-in “at my favorite bar with my best friends in the world.” If you’re lying about having plans (which you shouldn’t do in the first place), then at the very least stay off of social media during that time period. And make sure that those with you don’t post updates and photos of what you were really doing. This is especially true on the professional side. Telling your boss or a client that you’re sick then posting pictures of a golf trip on LinkedIn, will certainly make you feel sick.
7. That you’ve won big or made a big purchase.
Again, this gives people more information than you want them to have. Won big at the casino? Hit the lottery? Tommy, your second cousin, is just struggling to find a way to pay for college. Bought a new BMW? Well, maybe you might be interested in helping your niece Sally with her new business. You should be able to celebrate your wins online. But just be mindful of the potential reactions to your posts.
8. Anything that compromises the security of your home.
This sounds obvious but is actually a common mistake. Let’s say you had a party and took several pictures. You share the photos with your friends and then they reshare them. What you don’t realize right away is that a window with a broken lock can clearly be seen in one of the photos. Broken locks, alarm systems that are clearly not working, and a key hanger next to a window are just some of the things that compromise your home. Get them fixed or cover them before you have people over or start snapping pictures. Many people want the video walkthroughs of their homes removed from MLS after purchasing a home for this reason.
9. Unflattering photos of yourself.
We all know how easy it is to send photos to people, so keep in mind that any photo you post online (even in a private album or account) can be saved locally to someone’s machine and then posted elsewhere where it may not be locked down.
10. Details of your kids’ activities and where they will be unsupervised.
If you have kids, you’re probably very proud of them and want to tell the world. Just use the appropriate amount of caution for their stage in life. You wouldn’t project on your house that you’re leaving your kids home alone for the first time. You also wouldn’t shout out the window that your kid is walking to school alone. Unfortunately, the same sexual predators, thieves, and criminals that walk or drive by our homes can try to gain access to our online profiles. They could be friends of friends or someone who has just come across your profile when looking for people in their vicinity. Whatever the case, wait until after the event to post the details.
11. Anything hateful.
This goes without saying. Depending on your age, you may remember a time when discriminatory behavior that’s not tolerated today was the norm. Thankfully, we’ve moved forward as a society to protect people from hate and discrimination. However, people are more sensitive today than ever. So calling someone overweight, unattractive, etc… will likely harm you as much as the other person. If you’re really upset and must post, you’re better off criticizing the behavior of the person rather than making a general statement.
12. Your ID.
You probably know it’s unwise to post a copy of your license online. But what about your work ID? After all, it’s common for people to post a picture of their work badge on the last day of their job. Many companies do not want their employees – especially temporary help such as interns – posting photos of badges. It may seem far-fetched, but people have tried to gain access to companies and government agencies with counterfeit badges. While it’s unlikely that an international spy will gain access to a building based on a photo of your badge, it could be against company policy. So just keep that in mind before posting.
13. Too Many Promotional Posts.
So you’ve joined a network marketing program that’s going to make you a millionaire in a year. Of course, you need to let everyone know about the amazing products that they can only get from you. So it’s not promotional if you’re helping people be healthier and more eco-friendly, right? Wrong. No matter how amazing your services are (even if you build the best websites), no one wants to see ten posts a day about it.
Each post you make about your business should add value and speak to solving your target audience’s problems. But you should mix it up and post about things other than your business. Show your network that you’re human by sharing a picture of you eating your favorite meal, sitting in your favorite chair, or a vacation destination you love.
14. Emotionally Charged Posts.
If you’re a politician or work in a field where taking a position on issues is normal, then post away. Otherwise, you’re probably alienating people in your network. You have a right to your opinion and if you’re sharing it online, you’re probably sharing it in person. But one caveat is to do it respectfully. Name-calling is never acceptable and always makes you look bad. A better approach is to educate and explain that while both sides have valid points, you feel stronger about your position for the following reasons. And then list them out.
15. Poorly Written Posts.
This is especially important on a platform like LinkedIn where the community is more professional. You want your posts to always represent you in a good light. But people can be cruel. So using “your” when you should have used “you’re” can take the focus away from your message. This is especially common in emotionally charged posts. So do yourself a favor and do a quick spell and grammar check before you post.
16. Speculated or Unsourced Information.
It must be true because I saw it on the internet. Any good reporter will not publish a piece without checking sources. However, sometimes it’s tempting when you see something that sounds so good to just post it. While this is common with emotionally charged articles, it can also happen with business stories such as the Yale Class of 1953. That’s the class where only 3% of the graduates had goals. Allegedly, 20 years after graduation, that combined 3% was more successful than the combined 97% without goals. This turned out to be an urban legend. But even self-help guru Tony Robbins shared it in one of his programs.
17. #Hashtag #Everything.
I recently went to #waltdisneyworld for a #muchneededvacation. I got to #drinkaroundtheworld in #Epcot and then join #TeamRiseOfTheResistance at #GalaxysEdge. Sound #annoying? #Absolutely! There is such as thing as too many hashtags and appropriate hashtag use has become a rare art form. The purpose of hashtags is to group similar content together. So try to use them wisely. Three to five hashtags per post is a good guideline, but there are exceptions. You don’t need to put a hashtag in every post.
18. Photos of People without their permission.
Some people want to stay off social media. Their reason for doing so is irrelevant, as is whether we agree with their reasoning or not. But the right thing to do is to respect their wishes.
19. Threats or threatening language.
People will make you mad. Maybe it’s their posts or maybe it’s their actions. But in any case, social media threats are taken seriously. You could get banned from a group, lose your account, or even get a visit from the police (or FBI & Secret Service – depending on who you threaten).
20. Anything shared with you in confidence.
“A coworker told me that their son just flunked out of Boston College.” You may not have said who the coworker was, but everyone remembers the BC pennant on Jane’s desk, right next to the photo of her son with the Boston College Eagle.
“Three can keep a secret if two are dead.” – Ben Franklin
If someone entrusts you with a secret, keep it to yourself. Sharing it online will show everyone that you can’t be trusted.
Summing it all up.
What’s appropriate to share online is in the eye of the beholder. But there are things that if shared can put you or people associated with you in a bad place. The acid test we use for posts is simple: if we have to ask whether it’s appropriate to post, it probably isn’t. Another quick tip. Take five seconds to think about the ramifications of your post after typing it out and before you hit “post.” Those five seconds can save you a lifetime of pain.
Speaking of Pain.
If you find keeping up with social media and trying to figure out how to effectively post painful, we can help. Set up a complimentary consultation with us to learn how we can help you have a more effective online presence. We can also do the work for you with our digital marketing services.