Watch What You Say Online

It’s ridiculous sometimes how much of our information is shared online, and how much is taken over by others. Ridiculous—and scary.

Pretty much everyone who’s ever online has been told to be careful what they share, but being careful has different meanings to different people. I had an experience over the summer where I’d posted something about people I knew, using pseudonyms and believing I was posting privately. Someone saw the post and reported it to one of the people mentioned—even though I never mentioned that person’s name. Somehow, the person who reported the post put pieces together, pieces I didn’t even realize existed, and found out who I was referring to.

People were hurt by that, and six months later, I still feel horrible. Not only did they see something I’d posted that they were never meant to see, but one of the people involved had children. The person who put the pieces together could just as easily have been a predator. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case, but it definitely gave me a wake-up call about being far more mindful in what and where I say things online. (As soon as I was told what had happened, I contacted one of the moderators of the forum where I’d posted and asked that the posts be removed, which they were.)

Online, people share a lot about their lives. Information. Pictures of their families. What’s going on at their job. We might think we’re taking steps to protect ourselves and the people about whom we post, but you never know who might see it and decide to dig and find out more. There’s no way to completely protect everything we post. All we can do is be even more careful than we think we need to be.

Or just not go online. But I think for most of us, that’s pretty unlikely.