TMI. Oversharing. Airing your dirty laundry. These are all things that existed before the internet, and while they made for entertaining gossip in 1995, today they have become too commonplace to really enjoy—and their consequences too dire.

Social scientists have researched this phenomenon and applied an old theory to it called Fear of Missing Out.

Fear of missing out or FoMO is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.” This social angst is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”

You can rate your own FoMO with this quiz.

So what are some of the negative consequences of sharing every aspect of your life on social media?

Identity theft

There is a treasure of information located on the vast array of social media servers in Silicon Valley and beyond. This triad of personal information is available to anyone on Facebook, by default:

Name: Your name is the first step to taking over your identity.
Date of Birth: This is an important step under the medical privacy law HIPAA to authenticate your identity.
Address: This can be obtained by looking at pictures that have been geotagged.

Right there is enough information for a bad guy to show up at your pharmacy and pick up your medications. Privacy experts encourage social media users to “tweak” their displayed names or use a nickname (even though it is against the rules on Facebook). Also consider not making your date of birth visible or using a fake birthday. Lastly, for all that is dear, stop geotagging your pictures!


Even with innovative new methods like mediation and collaborative divorce, breaking up is hard to do. Judges in New York have allowed private posts to be submitted into evidence in divorce proceedings, and have ruled that tagging an ex-spouse in unflattering pictures can be deemed harassment in some cases. Beyond tagging, consider these real examples:

  • Geotagging can be used to prove any number of things, such as infidelity and dissipation of marital funds;
  • Friends tagging you in pictures at parties that show you consuming alcohol or worse (like when you are geotagged in Colorado) can do you a great disservice at child custody hearings;
  • Plain old text posts that appear vindictive or mention seemingly innocuous details about the status of your divorce can create bad blood and force you into a much more costly proceeding.

You can untag your own pictures and keep yourself from writing posts with TMI, but how can you stop your friends and acquaintances from tagging you in a picture where you are doing a keg stand? On Facebook you have the option of disallowing other people from tagging you without your permission. Believe me, it’s a good thing.

Won’t somebody think of the children?

I am lucky enough to be a nana twice over, with each of my two daughters becoming a mother in the last three years. Both of my daughters are on Facebook, and each has her own preferences for sharing pictures of my little grandbabies; one shares pictures prudently and the other shares practically none. Do I wish they’d each share more? Sometimes. But I also know they are being smart, probably smarter than me—there have been cases of kids’ identities being stolen, completely unknown to the kids and parents until the kids reach the age of majority and see that they have negative credit.

Facebook privacy settings can be adjusted to suit your needs and personality, but remember: Facebook is a money-making machine, and the things you post will always be analyzed by someone or something.

Join me next time when I delve into the TMI of LinkedIn!