Many professional and academic advisers focus on the fact that digital footprints that lead to proof of “bad behavior” (such as drinking, partying, or other inappropriate language or photos)  can get students and employees into big trouble.  However, According to research from the American Life Project, most people already know that.  In a recent study of internet users:

  • 86% have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints—ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email
  • 55% have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government

Despite the assumption that food will always magically come from the grocery store and a complete lack of outdoor survival skills (for the most part), Americans try to, and are pretty good at, covering their tracks in the digital world.  However, while the masses seem to be focused on cleaning up one social media faux pas after another, real world dangers of leaving a digital trail are steadily increasing.

The American Life Project reports that out of 792 internet users, 4% have experienced online altercations that ended in real world physical violence. That is 31 people!  Although, sometimes a black eye seems better than the 17% (or 134 people) who lost money or had their identity, credit card, or social security number stolen from internet content. Both are pretty dangerous.

The lesson here: YES focus on not producing completely ridiculous social media content that can get you suspended or fired.  But, also remember not to give out personal information.  Change your passwords regularly and know that even your birthday and phone number posted on Facebook can give someone all the information needed to totally wreck your life…or at the least, find you and punch you in the face.