That’s nice, but all this discussion about configuring Google+’s various privacy settings begs a bigger question – just what should you share on Google+?
How Much Sharing Is Too Much?
In my experience, people share too much information on Google+ and other social networks. People tend to forget that a social network is a public forum, not a private one, and just blurt out stuff they would never think of saying in person. Discretion is undervalued.
That said it’s up to you to determine which information is best kept private, or at least exposed only to your closest friends. The degree of privacy you practice depends to a degree on your personal comfort level and your personal life. But in general, you shouldn’t share any information that might prove embarrassing to you or your family, or that might compromise your current job or future job prospects.
Practicing Safe Posting
What this means in reality is going to differ from person to person. If you work for an ultra-liberal boss, for example, you might not want him to know that you’re a teaparty conservative. And if all your friends are born-again Christians, you might not want to publicize that you’re really somewhat agnostic.
But it goes further than that. If you’re preaching the “just say no” drug message to your kids, you might not want to list Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle as one of your favorite movies (even though it is hilarious); it might compromise your integrity on the matter just a bit. For that matter, you might want to hide all those photos that show you knocking back some cocktails at your friends’ beach party, tor both your kids’ sake and to ward off any awkward questions from teetotalling employers.
The same goes with the messages you post on Google+. There are stories, some of them true, of careless (and carefree) employees posting from the local watering hole when they were supposed to be home sick from work. Employers can and will keep track of you online, if you’re stupid enough to post all your comings and goings.
It’s not just the factual stuff that can get you in trouble, either. Spouting off your opinions is a common-enough social networking activity, but some people are bound to disagree with you or take more serious offense. Do you really want to start an online flame war over something you posted in haste?
For that matter, it’s a really bad idea to use Google+ to criticize your employer, the people you work with, your teachers, or just people you associate with in the community. Posting about how much you hate your job will eventually get back to your boss, even if you complain only to your nonwork friends. The resultant discussion will not be pleasant.
Discretion is the way to go. When in doubt, just don’t post it or upload it. It’s okay to keep some thoughts to yourself; you don’t have to post every little thought that enters you mind. Really, you don’t.
How Much Do Your Friends Really Need to Know?
The same goes with your contact information. Do you really want complete strangers to know where you live, where you’re at this moment, or your phone number? I certainly don’t. It may seem innocuous to post that you’re having a nice weekend getaway with your spouse, but if you’ve included your home address in your Google+ profile, that’s an invitation for someone to rob you blind.
Again, it’s better to be discrete, and not tell everyone how to contact you. If someone does want to contact you, they can send you a message on Google+; that’s pretty safe. They don’t have to be able to contact you via email, ring you up on the phone, or show up on your doorstep. There are too many nutcases out there not to be careful.
Bottom line, then, is this:
Be careful about the information you post to Google+.
It’s better to keep most of your personal information private – and make it not so easy for unwanted people to contact you.
[Image via West McGowan]