Today social media is almost unavoidable. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn aren’t part-time hobbies anymore, they’re an integral part of our daily lives; facilitating on-going communication and social connection, and helping people to manage their reputations online.

But, are users’ expectations changing, and can companies like Facebook keep up?

Social media

It would be wrong to say our online social lives haven’t evolved over the years, because they have. Granted, social media has only been in existence for just over a decade, but the developments made over that time have been astounding.

Take Facebook for example. What started as a small platform for American college students has exploded into a multi-national company. The network has over 1.4 billion users worldwide, made up of teenagers, adults, mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren and more. But as Facebook’s audience has changed, so have users’ expectations.

Online privacy

Since the boom of social media, one of the biggest talking points has been online privacy. And rightly so. Personal information has never been so readily available. Our photos, messages, whereabouts and relationships are all accessible, at the touch of a button.

In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commented on online privacy, saying that it was no longer a ‘social norm’. Facebook had taken the view that social media was a public platform, and privacy wasn’t necessarily a key factor when it came to their users.

The next generation

Fast forward five years though, and the conversation has moved on. New evidence and research shows a change in our attitudes to online privacy, particularly with respect to teenagers. According to a new survey published by the Market Research Society (MRS), young people today are now actively taking steps to safeguard their privacy online.

According to an article in the Sunday Times, young users are becoming more aware of the setbacks and potential dangers of sharing personal information online. The next generation of social media users are now more in tune with privacy issues such as identity theft, cyber-bullying, blackmail and online grooming, and are keen to protect their reputation online.

Protecting your reputation online

This is great news for the future of online privacy – but there are still potential risks out there which have the potential to impact on young users. The things you post, the things you say online may affect the way others view you; including potential future employers, businesses, governing bodies and beyond. So it’s important to know what you’re sharing online, who you’re sharing it with and what that piece of information says about you.

How to keep your information private online

In 2015, online privacy and reputation has never been more important. The way you publicise yourself online, and what personal information you choose to share online may have consequences. However, there are steps you can take to protect your online reputation.

Check your settings:

  • Who can see your information online? If you’re using Facebook or Twitter, take time to check your online privacy settings and familiarise yourself with them.
  • On Facebook there are many privacy factors, including how others see your online profile, how public your posts are, who can contact you and information on blocking other users. Facebook offers a number of ways to change these, from simple privacy check-up tools to more advanced options.

Review your existing posts:

  • An important part of reviewing your privacy online is to look at what you’ve shared in the past. Changing your privacy settings may help you move forward, but often the things you’ve said or shared, or photos you’ve been tagged in may well be open to the public still.
  • Take some time to check the status of your past activity. You can use Facebook’s ‘Activity Log’ to edit all your past events and engagements, and who can see them.
  • Remember it’s not just about making things private, or only viewable by your online friends. It’s also an opportunity to remove things that you don’t like, or that you’re not proud of. If you’re embarrassed or unhappy about something, remove it.

Review your future online activity:

  • If you’re happy with the information you’ve already shared online, and have configured your privacy settings in a way which suits you, then you’re already on the right path to better social media privacy. But it’s also important to be aware of your social media activity in the future.
  • When posting information, sharing photos or commenting on other people’s content, be aware of your actions and what you say. Review your commentary and social activity with as much care as possible, and remember that your online reputation matters.

Igniyte’s free e-book ‘A Guide to Managing Your Teenager’s Personal Information Online’ provides helpful advice for parents and carers, and tips for young people.

If you would like to discuss your reputation online in more detail please contact Simon Wadsworth on [email protected] or call him on +44 (0) 203 542 8689 in confidence.