A lot of posters often forget what they’re sharing – and that’s a problem

According to a new study, so-called oversharers sometimes no longer see the forest because of all the tweets. In addition, women are more likely to reveal personal details on social networks.

That one friend who has to share their Instagram story every dinner. The one colleague who constantly runs her jogging routes from Diet released. The unloved uncle who spreads crude theories on Facebook: Sooner or later you come across people on social media who you just want to advise not to share everything publicly on the Internet.

There is a term for such people: oversharers. But the oversharers may not even realize how much private information they are actually sharing and therefore cannot adapt their behavior. You can literally no longer see the forest for all the tweets. In any case, this result suggests a new study by the Pennsylvania State University.

The study, which was published in the journal Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, deals with two aspects. On the one hand, the researchers wanted to find out whether there was a connection between the demographic background of users on social media and the use of security features on the respective platforms. On the other hand, they investigated whether the democratic background has an influence on the personal content users post.

A total of 110 people were recruited on Twitter for the investigation. They agreed that their (public) tweets could be examined for the study. In order not to influence their behavior, they were not told in advance whether their data had actually been used. Both at the beginning and at the end of the recording there was an interview with everyone involved.

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During the study period, the test subjects posted around 21,068 tweets, replies and retweets. The researchers then sorted all of this content into different categories, for example whether the tweet contained personal data such as telephone numbers or places of residence or provided information about the demographic background, for example information about family members or job. In the end, almost 7,000 were included in the investigation.

Women are more likely to reveal personal details

The result: when using security features on Twitter, such as the 2-factor authentication, there are hardly any demographic differences. There was no indication that users with a high school diploma or higher-paying job were more likely to use the security features than others. The researchers actually assumed this, as research often speaks of digital inequality, according to which certain demographic groups should have more problems understanding the security functions of social media platforms. The study was largely able to refute this thesis.

Instead, there were other surprising findings. According to the study, women with a lower level of education tend to share more personal details overall. In contrast, income, age or skin color are irrelevant. There was a discrepancy in the sharing of personal information mentioned at the beginning: “People often don’t remember what they share on social media, and that can be a problem,” says study leader Jooyoung Lee. In fact, most of those involved said they didn’t remember the details they shared. The more they share, the less clear it is to them how complete the picture they reveal of themselves can be on the Internet – and in the worst case this information can be misused, for example for Phishing attacks.

The researchers therefore believe that social networks should introduce new features that make it easier for users to keep track of what they are actually sharing. Whether this will ever happen is questionable: After all, Facebook, Twitter and all other networks benefit from people revealing as much as possible about themselves.

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