Things to consider when posting online – Part 1: Boundaries

Sharing information on social media can be overwhelming. Consider your boundaries before posting information online.

According the 2014 Pew Research, 87 percent of adults were online and 74 percent of those adults were using social media tools. With a large portion of the population using different social media tools, it is important to take some time and consider your boundaries. Boundaries are the standard for what is expected in an in-person relationship, but should also be considered when sharing information online. Some boundaries are easy to decipher because we learn them through rules, policies and other guidelines. Other boundaries are not communicated as clearly and have to be navigated with care. It is important to remember that boundaries vary depending on the nature of the relationship and people’s personal preferences.

Boundaries that are normally distinct are very easily blurred in a virtual world. So when you think about who you are friends with on different social networking sites, consider if you would share the same type and amount of information with each of your connections if you were in an in-person setting. Many people are used to operating in an environment where their family, friends’ and mentors’ lives are separate, and what they do privately is less likely to impact their public life. Social networking has the potential to bring formerly separate worlds into one place, which can have both positive and negative ramifications. It is important for individuals to consider the pros and cons of connecting their personal and professional networks.

While social networking may blur the boundaries between relationships, it doesn’t change the context in which people know one another. For example, a picture of you spending time with friends around a campfire with red plastic cups could be interpreted by your family or program participants in a variety of ways, regardless of what is actually in those cups. It’s important to think about every status update, posted link and photo tag from the various perspectives of all audiences you interact with and what your personal boundaries are.

To learn more about what you should consider before sharing information on social media, look for the next two Michigan State University Extension articles in this series on who you should friend and questions to consider.

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