Could you be sharing too much online?

We all get carried away sometimes in our lives. Shopping, drinking, eating, using the Internet… we all get carried away, it happens to everyone. And then we face consequences — overspending, a ticket for drunk driving, eating too much, or, dispersing too much information on the Internet.

Do you remember how happy you were the first time you shared digital photos with people halfway across the country? Internet has made so many things possible, but for the most part it has made the most important function of our lives easier: sharing.

In today’s highly digitized world, we share more than just photos. We share our lives on the Internet. We create a virtual self not only for us, but also for our children who have years before they get their own hands on the technology.

A recent international study found that at least 81% of children under the age of two have an online presence of some sort (92% in the US). This digital footprint ranges from sonogram pictures to email accounts, and even profiles on social networks. What’s even more staggering is that these footprints get bigger so quickly, that by the time the child is two years old, there is already a mountain of information about them online. So do you think we got carried away sharing information online? Or, do we need better privacy on the Internet to control the flow of information?

A recent New York Times article illustrated an interesting phenomenon. Ten years ago, a system programmer uploaded a few pictures of his five-month-old son, Stephen. It’s a natural thing to do, right? Well, it was not until last year that he discovered something very bizarre. Not only did he find the original picture, but numerous versions of it that were just … well, they were weird and funny. Stephen had become an Internet meme. Though a meme is not the worst thing that could happen, it does highlight a certain vulnerability of our information online.

People might argue that online privacy is a redundant issue, since YOU as an individual have control over what you share. But think about this for a moment: Internet has been in existence for almost two decades now. At a user’s level, it is extremely hard for us to understand what the medium is capable of achieving until we see something bad happen with it. It’s like saying that I have developed the most delicious ice cream flavor that there ever was. Consumers start enjoying it, until someone gains a lot of weight by eating it too much and suddenly, I’m to blame.

We cannot be aware of all the possible consequences of our actions online. The only thing we can do is to learn from experiences. Not only ours, but others all around.

If you are concerned about privacy, educate yourself on how to keep your information in a closed circle. Whether it is using Facebook lists to divide your friends and share specific stuff with those people, or just thinking about how sharing certain information might affect you in the future, it’s a step towards being responsible in this digital world. The Internet is a great medium for quickly communicating with people who aren’t nearby, but don’t get carried away.

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