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Social Media Footprint: How Much Can We Learn About One Another Online?

From bringing us together with friends and family, even at a great distance, to making it easier than ever to network with colleagues and clients, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are undeniably positive additions to our virtual lives, and the more than two billion people who indulge in social media on a regular basis all obviously agree.

Put those wonderful benefits aside, though, and social media takes on a more sinister position, serving as a keeper of what is sometimes very private information – information that you may not be happy to share with the world. Here’s a look at three ways that any web surfer can get to know you via your social media footprint:

1. What You Look Like


Nothing captures a moment in time quite like a photograph, and this had lead to the rise of not only Facebook, but also photo-specific social media websites like Flickr and Picasa. While you may be happy to share your intimate moments with a friend, you never know who may take an interest in the visual impression that you give of yourself down the road, and this means that you’ll need to be careful when it comes to sharing photographic evidence of your exploits.

Even if you’re sure to upload only tame, neutral photographs to the web, ask yourself if you’re really willing to have just anyone see your face at any given moment. From Facebook profile pictures being included automatically in linked Hotmail accounts, to Google search results that include social media imagery in them, truly protecting your personal image means being very choosy when it comes to considering what to upload, and what to store on a local hard drive.

2. What You Do


One of the most common uses of websites like Twitter and Facebook is to alert friends and family as to your goings-on at any given time of the day. From chatting about your experience in a restaurant, to posting pictures of yourself while attending a party, it is likely that your social media accounts have slowly grown into a detailed log concerning what you do and what you enjoy. Sites like make collecting all that information even easier!

For some people this will be of no concern, but let’s face it: not all of us wants every single one of our experiences to be accessible to just anyone. For example, sharing your partying endeavors with friends is great, but not so much when it’s your boss poking around.

The only way to avoid this social media pitfall is to be selective in what you share online, judging each word, photo, and video from a variety of perspectives before committing to put it out there for the world to see.

3. Where You Live


Whether you register a domain and make your address known via WHOIS searches, or you include your postal code during a community signup process in order to help them better serve you, giving your location away online has become so common that we often don’t stop to consider the possible consequences.

As security becomes more of a concern with major websites that have an interest in helping users to protect their accounts, many services that don’t otherwise need it have access to your home address for the purpose of verification and identification, making that sensitive data potentially available via a number of different sources. From the “where I’ve been” feature in Facebook, to letting eBay know your physical location in order to receive deliveries, never before has your location been given out so freely.

The risks of letting just anyone know where you live are obvious, so consider using a post office box for web service purposes, avoiding the need to divulge your home address online altogether.

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About Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty
Ann is a search and social marketer running and promoting her own projects. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing and tutorials.