How to Keep Your Private Life Private Online

How do you decide what you share online?

In 2022, many of our professional and personal interactions happen online. As a result, most of us have an online presence or persona – in fact, over 80% percent of Americans have at least one social media profile.

However normalized being online is in 2022, there can be a lot of risk in oversharing online, particularly if you are a public figure. If you are a public figure, it is likely that people are looking for information about you – if they can find too much, it’s possible that they can use that against you. One misstep, and you may see headlines about what you did or said online, with comments sections growing by the minute.

Not only is information more accessible than ever before, but our online culture often encourages sharing, meaning it can be hard to know where your sharing line is – or should be.

As a public figure, knowing what to share publicly and what to keep private can have significant impacts on your reputation. In this article, we’ll define privacy online as we’re talking about it in this article, highlight the pitfalls of oversharing (and the consequences of not sharing at all), and give you tips on how to keep your private life private online, without sacrificing a strong online presence.

What do we mean when we say private?

Privacy online is a popular topic right now, and these conversations can encapsulate passwords and security, data usage, website security, cookies, the information you or others share about you online, and so much more.

When we talk about your private life, we mean any information that you could post online that could get you unwanted attention, scrutiny, or that you may not want to have be public (such as emails, phone numbers, addresses, etc.). As social media continues to grow in popularity, with 36% of the world population on at least one social media platform, it can feel normal to share personal information online; however, there can be consequences to this oversharing.

Why Privacy Matters

Over 85% of Americans have made attempts to erase or reduce their digital footprint online, with roughly 25% of internet users admitting to having posted sensitive personal data on social media websites. This means one in four social media users have shared information such as a home address, email, phone numbers, or other sensitive information on social media platforms.

The consequences of oversharing online, and not protecting your privacy, can be significant. Sharing sensitive, personal information can lead to harassment, stalking, or identity theft. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, roughly 12% of people have experienced harassment on the internet. Online stalking and identity theft have also increased over time, partially a result of the accessibility of personal information online.

Even if you aren’t sharing sensitive information, oversharing about your personal life online can yield negative results. According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, as much as 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process. Even further, 54% report not hiring prospective employees due to what they found on their social media profiles. You may not be sharing private information like addresses or emails, but sharing too much online can still have a negative impact on your career, personal life, and reputation.

For public figures, the impacts of oversharing can be even more severe. As a public figure, you are more likely to be watched and scrutinized for how you conduct yourself online. If you are the head of a company or organization, your reputation can also impact the reputation of your business. Our digital world and our real world are merging, and a poor online reputation can have a real impact on your overall reputation, so maintaining discretion online becomes even more important for public or prominent figures.

Being Private Doesn’t Mean Going Offline

Your knee-jerk reaction to the consequences of sharing your private information online may be to delete your profiles and get offline forever. While that can seem like the right thing to do, erasing your online presence comes with its own issues:

  • People expect to see you online. In 2022, Google Search results can act as a business card or first impression for people wanting to learn more about you. Particularly if you are a public figure, people will go online to learn more about you. If you are not findable online, you may miss out on opportunities to connect with prospective employees, customers, and other people in your industry.
  • You don’t have a say when it comes to your own reputation. Perhaps worse than not being findable online is when unsavory results populate for your name. Without an online presence, you can’t influence the conversations around you online, meaning that what others say about you – good or bad – will define who you are online.
  • A strong online presence can define your reputation. Even if you aren’t experiencing a reputation crisis, having the first say about who you are online can define your entire reputation. In 2022, your online reputation essentially is your reputation, so it is vital you put your best foot forward – this means taking your online presence into your own hands and presenting yourself well without divulging information that you would rather keep private.

10 Tips to Keep Your Private Life Private

With so many benefits to staying online, you need to know how to protect your private information without forfeiting your online presence. Here are our tips to keep your private life private while maintaining a strong presence online.

      1. Clean Up Your Profiles

The first step in ensuring that your private life stays private online is to take a look at your owned assets – or, the online properties that you control, such as your personal website, social media profiles, etc.

Make a list of the assets you own and take stock of the information you’re sharing. What information do you have displayed on these assets? Do you display sensitive information, such as your email, phone number, or address? Do you have your location listed? What can someone learn about you by reading through your profiles or website? What information would you rather not share?

Once you have answered these questions, go through your profiles and website and remove any information that you would not like to be public. Remember: information that is findable online is findable by anyone, so be sure to remove any information that you wouldn’t want a stranger – or worse, someone with malicious intent – to have access to.

      2. Use Stricter Privacy Settings on Personal Accounts

Even if you don’t intend for your personal social media profiles to rank in search results, if you don’t have strict privacy settings in place, these profiles will be findable to anyone who is looking for more information about you.

To ensure that these profiles are secure, go into your privacy settings to update your personal settings to be more strict.

Privacy settings can limit access to your profiles – and, thus, your private information – to the people that you choose. Depending on the platform, you can restrict access to your posts, friends or followers lists, and even your profile photo to keep your profile private.

By upping the strictness of your security settings on your profiles, you will be able to maintain a personal social media presence without fearing that people outside of your personal network will be able to access your private and personal information.

      3. Maintain Public and Private Profiles on Social Media

Of course, for some public figures, maintaining a presence on social media is vital for your professional success. If social media is a key part of your personal or professional brand, create two social media profiles: one public figure or professional profile, and one, more restricted profile for personal use.

While maintaining two profiles may seem like a hassle or a waste of time, separating your personal and professional life can help you maintain your privacy and keep your brand consistent while staying connected with family and friends online.

      4. Consider Your Audience

When considering what you should share online, think about your audience. Depending on your industry and line of work, there may be different expectations for what you should or should not share about yourself online.

For some individuals, sharing too much personal information may be unprofessional or unnecessary. For others, giving context about your personal life, your background, or your connection to your organization or brand may be vital to the success of your business. Determine what kind of information you need to share to connect with your audience, and stay within those topics and categories when sharing.

      5. Think Before You Post

Once you’ve defined your audience and defined your online brand, you’ll likely feel a bit more comfortable about what you share. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put thought into every post. A common sentiment I’m sure you’ve heard is that the internet is forever – once it’s out there, it’s near impossible to remove.

With that in mind, put thought into what you put out there. Check the news and current events before posting to ensure you aren’t posting anything that could be considered out-of-touch or tactless, and consider worst-case scenarios about what people could do with the information you share. A second set of eyes can also help ensure that you aren’t oversharing when you post online.

      6. And Before You Respond

Never go to bed angry, and never post when you’re angry, either. A negative review or critical article may have you feeling frustrated, but that is never when you should respond. Just as your information can be used against you, responding to people in heated, impulsive, or overly emotional ways can also have a negative impact on your reputation. Privacy isn’t just about personal facts, but also about maintaining discretion and a certain image when presenting yourself online.

If someone makes a false or critical claim about you or your business online, don’t fan the flames – assess the situation, and calmly plan the best way to respond to ensure that you don’t make the situation worse.

      7. Set Boundaries

For some public figures, sharing about your personal life is part of the deal. But this doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to your privacy online. Even if your persona is key to your brand or business, you are not obligated to share everything.

To avoid oversharing, or feeling regret after sharing a bit too much, establish boundaries about what you are and are not willing to share and stick to it. Write posts in advance and take time to consider the response you may receive before sharing. The goal is not to please everyone, or to never share anything online, but boundaries can help you clearly differentiate between your public and private life.

      8. Remember the Real World

Just because you didn’t post it doesn’t mean it can’t show up online. If you are a public figure, how you conduct yourself in the real world can have an impact on your online reputation.

Treat every interaction as if it could show up online. While you shouldn’t let that consume you, or make you overly self-conscious in your day-to-day interactions, remember that there is always a possibility that someone could publish a comment, review, or even an article about how you conducted yourself in the real world online. There is no need to be paranoid – if you conduct yourself respectfully, there won’t be anything to write about, but remember that the possibility is there.

This goes for private messages as well. Texts, emails, and DMs can all be screenshotted and shared online, so make sure you conduct yourself respectfully in public and in private, as any interaction with someone else may become public, whether you want it to or not.

      9. Establish an Online Strategy

In 2022, an online strategy is mandatory. Nearly 60% of the world’s population is online, and this number is growing fast. 68% of online actions begin with a search engine, and 97% of people go online to learn more about a business.

A bit of a catch-all, a defined online strategy can help you determine how your online presence should function, what your boundaries should be, and where you will draw the line between public and private. Having goals and a strategy established will define how you should use your public online presence, and can act as a road map for how you should conduct yourself online.

      10. Hire an Online Reputation Management Firm

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to your online presence, if you have already shared too much information online, or if you are experiencing a reputation crisis, it may be time to bring in the professionals. An ORM firm like Status Labs can help you assess and respond to your specific reputation needs, to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward online.

To determine if Status Labs is right for you, you can reach out to us for a free consultation.

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