Social media is a matter of course for us in our constantly online world. Whether you’re ranting about something that’s bothering you or celebrating your child’s birthday, it’s almost a given at this point to post about yourself online. But it’s always important to stop and think about the consequences.
While there’s nothing wrong with sharing a meme or two with your friends, there are risks in posting more sensitive information. You can become an easy target for hackers or even become a victim of cyberstalking.
Let’s delve into the darker side of social media and explore the potential dangers of posting personal information on social media platforms.
1. Identity Theft
While it’s easy to create an anonymous profile online, most people prefer to openly provide their real name and personal email address. This makes it easier for mutual friends to find and connect with you. Unfortunately, this also means it’s relatively easy for strangers to do the same.
Depending on what you share online, a quick search on social media can make it easy for hackers to find your email address, date of birth, and even your mailing address. You can probably imagine how this can lead to identity theft. If a criminal gains access to your personal information, they can use it to impersonate you, open fraudulent accounts, or sell your information.
Hackers can also exploit personal information beyond contact details. They can tamper with photos of ID cards, birth certificates, or other sensitive documents if you inadvertently share them.
You may also use information such as your first pet’s name, your mother’s maiden name, and other information commonly used in security questions to bypass security measures when attempting to access your account.
Doxxing is the publication of a person’s personal data on the Internet with the sole intention of causing mental or physical harm. If someone gains access to your sensitive information, they can post it online in hopes that others will harass you. This can cause psychological distress, ruin your reputation, or even get you fired.
Imagine if your address gets on the internet, you can probably imagine that it poses a huge risk to privacy and security. Hackers can get such sensitive information by analyzing your social media profile.
You should be careful about the information you post online. This includes contact details, personal anecdotes, complaints about your life or information about your family.
Also, check your location tagging settings, as posting a geotagged photo of your home could result in your address being accidentally shared with others.
3. Cyberbullying and Harassment
Social media platforms can sometimes be a breeding ground for trolls and toxicity. If someone is targeting you, they can harass you in your DMs, spread rumors about you online, or even send an army of people to spam you with lewd messages.
Some people will dismiss this and embrace the possibility of cyberbullying if they post online. However, cyberbullying can cause great emotional and psychological distress. This can range from temporary sadness to long-term damage to your mental health.
If cyberbullyers gain access to your phone number, email address, or other social profiles, they can use that information to harass you excessively. It can get even worse if they get access to photos and videos or information about your personal relationships. They can extort large sums of money from you for deleting this information.
But when was there honor among thieves? It is likely that you are still a victim of extortion and harassment even after paying cyber criminals.
Cyberstalking sounds less intimidating than physical stalking, but it can cause just as much emotional distress. It is best defined as constant stalking, harassment, or surveillance of an individual through online channels such as social media. Cyberstalkers can start out with excessive messaging or commenting, but quickly escalate to threats.
Anonymity is what makes these stalkers so insidious. You can just block them and move on, but a persistent stalker will just create a new profile. In most cases, it is better to report all cyberstalking cases to the proper authorities.
It’s important to protect your personal information and adjust your privacy settings so that random strangers don’t get a chance to message you. You should also exercise caution when disclosing your home address or place of work.
5. Manipulative Advertising
Many social media platforms are free as they generate the bulk of their revenue from ads. Most of these platforms will convince you that your data is safe, but unfortunately online privacy is a myth. Apps like Facebook and Instagram collect a lot of data about your surfing behavior to find out your likes and dislikes. This is why targeted ads are so accurate.
The information you post online may be accessed by various parties, such as advertisers and companies, who create a comprehensive profile of your interests, preferences and behavior. Advertisers may also look for political affiliations to promote misleading or controversial content. This reinforces existing prejudices and can influence public opinion.
6. Phishing Attacks
Social engineering can make phishing, where cybercriminals trick you into revealing personal information, even more targeted. If you ever click on a link received from a suspicious-looking account, you’re in for big trouble. Phishing attacks can be used to compromise your privacy, hijack your accounts, or even install malware on your devices.
Cyber criminals can create tailored messages if they have access to personal information such as your name, email address, or even specific details about your interests and preferences. The likelihood of falling for this simple attack is higher if the cybercriminal poses as someone from your workplace or a family member acquaintance.
7. Career Consequences
Some employers and recruiters may research your social media profiles before hiring. More often than not, they find something that can influence their hiring decisions. Offensive language, derogatory remarks, and controversial opinions can leave a lasting negative impression.
Sharing inappropriate content, such as photos with offensive content, drug use, and illegal firearms, can also have obvious consequences for your career. All of this damages your professional credibility and jeopardizes your current career and your chances of future employment.
Protect yourself online and offline
You won’t be able to sleep at night knowing your doors are unlocked. So why take a similar risk every time you go online? There aren’t any real benefits to posting personal information on the internet, but there are many downsides.
While some of the consequences might not sound serious, things like cyberbullying and doxxing are very real issues to be wary of.