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January 19, 2019

Take care of what you share on social media

Today I want to touch on an aspect of personal branding that most people discount. It is how you appear on social media, and how much you share.

In our rush to declare our individuality; and use the voice that social media has finally given Africans, we are often reckless. We share too openly. We treat social media as a broad and open pasture, across which we canter, showering our latest news and personal details.

How many of us consider using different media for different purposes? Facebook for friends and family, for example. LinkedIn for showing off our business achievements. Twitter for broader conversations. Pinterest for… and so on.

But it is time we did consider personal use, and personal exposure on social media. Because - once there, it never goes away.

My grandmother used to have a saying about ladies who wore low cut dresses; “ If it’s not for sale, it shouldn’t be in the shop window.’

How about we modify that axiom: ‘If it’s not for the record, it shouldn’t be on the Internet.’

Sharing your latest romantic intrigues can prove to be embarrassing later on. Strike that. Will prove embarrassing later on!

Filling your Facebook with pictures of drunken parties and wild living can lose you that job opportunity (Facebook is one of the first places modern employers go to check out the reality behind a seemingly perfect candidate).

But some sharing actually puts you in harms way. In several African countries being gay is still a crime. In some, being gay has become a witch, to be hunted down and actively persecuted.

We live in a world overshadowed by terror. Do you really want to leave details of family, addresses, regular patterns of behavior for anyone evil to browse?

So I suggest it is time we calmed down a bit. Became more selective, less competitive. If you want to impress people, remember the maxim ‘less is more’. Confident people do not have to tell you how clever or sociable or active they are. Not in the greatest detail, in any case.

Now, when I said ‘once there, it never goes away’, that was not strictly true anymore. The latest big news about social media is a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice. Two people had applied to Google to have details of their past removed from search results. Last Tuesday, according to The Times of London, the Court ruled that anyone could demand that information about them be removed from search engines. This enshrines in law the ‘right to be forgotten.’

The fact that the case was brought by a former British MP seeking re-election and a convicted of paedophile has caused much debate. The MP is thought to want to expunge his expenses fraud from the record, and one can only imagine what the other applicant intends to ‘disappear’. The ruling has caused fears about freedom of speech, in that it would allow people to censor information that had been published lawfully.

Although the new ruling will not facilitate the removal of news articles, blogs or posts it could force search engines to remove the links to the content, thereby making the content impossible to access.

As Russia moves further towards a reprise of the Stalinist era, I wonder if Mr. Putin has heard of this news, and rejoiced?

Chris Harrison has 30 years experience in marketing and advertising most of them spent in Africa. He leads the African operations of The Brand Inside; an international company that helps organisations deliver their brands and strategies through their people.

To comment on this article, send a Tweet to harrisoncj on or visit his blog

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