Sometimes Social Media Gets Creepy

Twitter is an open, very public, forum. And it’s easy to lose sight of this reality.

As most of us pound away on our smartphone of choice, tweeting to our heart’s content, we often forget that our micro-messages can be viewed by anyone ―literally, anyone. And if you are one of the select few who have decided you’re better off protecting your tweets, I encourage implore you to revisit the issue because you’re missing out on a whole lot of tweeting goodness. Moving on…

While I have always approached social media in a relatively cautious manner, I sometimes forget how readily we share information online. Last week, for example, while taking cover in a bus stop during a flash storm, I fired off a quick tweet:

I tucked my phone away and ran out from under the bus station to brave the storm. It wasn’t until the next day, when a friend was reading the newspaper during her morning commute, that I was told my tweet had gone viral! Well, not really… but it had been printed in the Metro News in plain black and white.

My tweet in the paper? You’ve got to admit that it’s really cool‑well, somewhat, remotely cool. Once over the initial excitement, I realized how creepy it was that my seemingly run-of-the-mill tweet had not only been read, but picked up by a local newspaper and printed for all to see.

While I recognize the irony in my discomfort, given the open nature of social networks like Twitter and my blatant willingness to publicly divulge copious amounts of information online, it felt weird. Not in a violated kind of way. Just weird. Maybe it was because I felt Ottawa should have more important things to report on that my commentary on the weather. Maybe it was the transition from virtual to print media that threw me off. Either way, it was a sharp reminder that anything I blog, tweet, post, share, stumble upon or tag is fair game and very much in the public domain.

While I could easily list off a number of ways to protect your information and stay safe on Twitter, Google can provide you with a much more extensive list. Rather, I leave you with a few unheeded words of caution shared by Scott Stratten in UnMarketing:

Never say anything in social media that you don’t want to see on a billboard with your name, logo, face, and phone number attached, with your client/boss/mother driving by.

Have you ever been surprised to see tweets pop up in unexpected places? Or do you think this trend becoming commonplace? Let me know in the comments!

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