It seems like our online and offline lives are getting increasingly difficult to keep separate. Particularly with so many of us owning smartphones, it’s as if we’re never truly disconnected from the lives that we’ve built on the internet. Yet, most would still be willing to make a distinction between the virtual online world and real life, thus the debate continues to be (at least for the time being) how the virtual world affects our reality.
While there’s plenty debate to go around about how this impacts us morally, mentally and even physically, there are some very real and non-debatable side-effects that our online lives bring to our offline lives.
They can certainly be managed and even prevented under the right habits and precautions, but many people who live active online lifestyles, particularly in the area of social media, don’t even realize these cause and effect scenarios exist.
So, in an effort to reverse that trend, here are four typical online activities and how they can have an impact on your offline life:
1. Divulging vacation itineraries — We’re not saying that nobody cares about when you go on vacation, because it’s very likely that you have friends and family that do. Here’s the problem: the more information you provide about your whereabouts, the more likely it is that criminals can get wind of it and effectively plan when and how to rob your house, or worse.
Twenty years ago, burglars would have to “scout” homes by sitting in an inconspicuous vehicle and watch the habits of those who lived in the home. Now, with technology available literally in the palm of our hands, they no longer have to scout. They can simply target someone with an active Facebook profile who keeps their whereabouts updated regularly.
A good social media best practice would be to keep your locations private and only post them sparingly.
2. Posting photos — It’s not the worst thing you could do, but posting photos of yourself online can mean trouble for you if you’re ever in a debate with your insurance company, or even worse; the law.
For example, some health insurance companies will scout your Facebook page to see if they can pick up on your overall health habits. If you’ve “liked” the Jack Daniels fan page and there are pictures of you downing a bacon cheeseburger, that’s an immediate red flag.
So, enjoy your burger, but just keep it private and keep the insurance companies guessing.
3. Talking about health related habits, good or bad — If you do want to divulge information about your health, try talking about going for a run, going to the gym or post a picture of the super healthy grilled chicken salad you just prepared. You could even “like” the Planet Fitness fan page to top things off (even if you don’t go there).
In the same manner that negative health portions of your profile can lead to higher insurance premiums, positive health items, like the ones mentioned, are music to an insurer’s ears. Let’s face it, there’s a reason doctors recommend that you eat right and exercise, so the insurance companies are just playing the odds.
Feel free to stack the odds in your favor in terms of your online presence.
4. Pages you “like” — We’ve already touched on it a little bit, but it bears a little more discussion. Your Facebook likes, if there are enough of them, can actually reveal a lot about you. It can show people your political leanings, your religion what causes you support and a wealth of other information that goes far beyond your favorite sports teams.
Don’t feel as if you shouldn’t like any pages, but try and consider some of the scenarios that were discussed earlier and whether or not liking a page could reveal things about you that you wouldn’t want everybody knowing about.
Keeping Online and Offline Separate
In a time where privacy is getting to be increasingly more difficult to come by, it’s more crucial than ever to keep our offline lives separate from our online lives and remain unaffected by it. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with having a Facebook or Twitter account, but just be sure to reconsider how you represent yourself through them.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing professional who works with HostPapa, a certified green web hosting site, covering everything from social media marketing to web hosting and analytics. Though she is very active on several social media platforms, she always makes sure that she takes the right precautions to protect her information.