Even if you think that you have your Facebook privacy settings locked down, it’s still pretty difficult to control where your posts and photos end up. You don’t have much control over what your friends do with your posts, and with just a few likes, a post can be seen by hundreds of people that you don’t know. That means that it’s way too easy for posts to turn up when university admissions officers, potential employers, or prospective business partners search for you on the social network. So there are a few things that you should avoid posting about on Facebook, just to stay on the safe side.
1. Data tied to your personal and financial security
When you’re on Facebook, it’s never a good idea to post your home address, your telephone number, your birth year, your mother’s maiden name, or any other information that a criminal could use to steal your identity. All of the information that you post online makes it easy enough for a determined attacker to steal your identity, so protect yourself and don’t make it any more likely that your identity will get stolen.
2. Clues to your passwords
Another important part of protecting your security online is avoiding posting information that might hint at the passwords you use or the security questions some services have had you answer. (If you’re still using insecure passwords, do yourself a favor and set up a password manager.) Avoid unnecessary posts about your childhood pets, the town where you grew up, or the name of your first girlfriend or boyfriend — all pieces of information that a hacker could leverage against you and that your social network really doesn’t need to know.
3. Information about your location
If you aren’t vigilant about your privacy settings, you may be inadvertently revealing your location every time you upload a photo or post your thoughts. Giving out your location can be a bad move if you have acquaintances whom you’d prefer to prevent from tracking you down. And a post from the airport or your vacation destination can clue potential thieves in to the fact that you aren’t at home and probably won’t be for a while.
4. Your travel plans
It’s also never a good idea to intentionally announce to the world when you’re planning to be out of town and leaving your house vacant. Criminals are increasingly watching social networks to figure out when they can target potential victims. Most people would prefer not to return home from that skiing trip or tropical cruise to find out that they’ve been robbed. In the same vein, it’s a bad idea to post just to brag about material possessions; while it’s always great to see friends achieve their goals, you could be painting a target on that brand-new car or TV.
While it might not be as dangerous as posting about your vacation plans, boasting about your good fortune in an attempt to make others jealous won’t win you any favor among your Facebook friends. If you have good news, share it in a way that feels genuine. Don’t try to fish for compliments or make others envious of your lifestyle.
6. Attention-seeking posts
Vague posts that are practically begging for someone to ask you “what’s wrong?” or “what happened?” or “what’s the good news?” are just as bad as posts that exist solely to fish for compliments. No one appreciates seeing vague posts that simply proclaim a day the “worst day ever” or even the “best day ever.” Be considerate of your Facebook friends, and don’t leave them hanging. If you’re just writing a post to get attention, then reconsider whether it’s something worth sharing.
7. Posts that share way too much personal information
Whether you just broke up with your significant other, got some bad news from your doctor, or are disappointed about how a friend bailed on your plans, don’t share excessive personal details. It’s OK to post about what’s going on in your life, but you shouldn’t feel the need to share all the gory details with your extended social network. Before you post something, consider that your colleagues or boss might see it; if it isn’t something you want the world to see, then don’t post it on Facebook.
8. Embarrassing photos of you or others
Whether it’s unflattering photos of your friends or snapshots from that series of bars you went to last weekend, it’s never a good idea to post photos that give the wrong impression of you or your friends. Posting them is a great way to send the wrong message to everyone who runs across your profile, and it’s also pretty easy for photos to be shared and go viral these days — something you probably don’t want to happen with photos that you only uploaded for a quick laugh.
9. Photos of your kids or your friends’ kids
Many kids grow up with an Instagram hashtag or dozens of Facebook photo albums documenting their accomplishments. But overzealous parents don’t consider how private or public those photos will really be. As with other photos you post on Facebook, you should assume that just about everything is public. Get permission from a child’s parents before posting a photo. If you have to post a photo, avoid adding geographical information, hinting at where a child goes to school, or using his or her real or full name.
10. Photos that you want kept private
While most people have the common sense not to post nude photos on Facebook, it’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t send them via messages on the social network, either. If it’s a photo that you really don’t want posted online, then you shouldn’t send it to anyone or upload it anywhere.
11. Complaints about your job
Even after the most frustrating of days at the office, it’s never a good idea to complain about your workplace or your job online. Not only will friends who are unemployed or underemployed think that you’re being ungrateful for the job that you’ve managed to land, but it can also get you into trouble with your employer — who may find it easier to stumble onto your post than you think.
12. Information about what you’re doing at work
While it may seem innocuous at the time, sharing specific information about the projects you’re working on or the deadline that you’ve just missed is a pretty bad idea. Your boss is pretty likely to be unhappy about those posts if he or she hears about them, and they may even tip off your company’s competitors to information that really should have been kept private.
13. Other people’s news
Whether it’s your best friend’s engagement, a cousin’s pregnancy, or your little brother’s acceptance to the college of his dreams, don’t be the first to announce other people’s big news on Facebook. At best, you’ll create an awkward situation and take control of someone else’s timeline. And at worst, you’ll be sharing news that your friend or family member had a legitimate reason for keeping offline. Be considerate and check whether the person in question has posted anything before blabbing to your network.
14. Politically charged comments
If you’re worried about offending potential employers, it’s not a good idea to post political rants or religiously-motivated opinions on Facebook. It’s fine to share links to news articles or videos to get a discussion going among your friend group on the social network, but think twice before posting something that could be construed as insensitive, or taken out of context. That way, you’ll avoid losing friends thanks to something you posted in the heat of the moment, and you won’t regret a post later when it’s taken out of context.
15. Offensive jokes and posts
Whether it’s profanity or an off-color joke, don’t risk an awkward situation later by posting something offensive now. While it might seem funny at the time, and could get a few laughs from the friends you’re out on the town with, it’s not worth the risk of offending family members, friends, or even that boss that you forgot you friended.
16. Gossip or personal attacks
While your social network might feel like a safe place to complain about a vindictive co-worker or a friend who betrayed you, it’s never a good idea to vent your frustrations on Facebook. Calling someone out online, even if you don’t name them explicitly, can ruin the relationship. And seeing you gossip or attack others can be a pretty good reason for the rest of your friends to stop trusting you.
17. Facebook hoaxes
You should never fall for, much less repost, the persistent Facebook hoaxes that pop up from time to time and circulate through your circle of friends. Reposting a status about how you own the content you post, for instance, just makes you look gullible (and unable to perform a basic Google search for a quick fact-check).
18. Medical misinformation
Unless you have a medical degree or are a qualified professional, you probably shouldn’t be writing rants about the dangers of conventional medicine or telling people that they should eschew clinically proven drugs for supplements or miracle foods. Conversations that minimize the seriousness of issues like mental illness or reduce cancer to a punchline can be both offensive and dangerous, and can make you look just as naive as if you reposted a copy-and-paste status.