Corporate Dishonesty Honesty versus the Bottom Line


Op-Ed Do the Benefits of Online Social Media Outweigh the Risks? (New York Times)

January 2, 2018

Self-disclosure on online social media, do the benefits outweigh the risks?


A large part of the rapid growth of social media has been caused by an increasing amount of online self-disclosure by its users.

In today’s world of online content, it may almost seem necessary to have some sort of online presence, which is coupled with online self-disclosure. Social media certainly has its advantages, but are the risks of disclosing personal information online worth the benefits?


Self-Disclosure: It’s Worth the Risk

Ben Gardner is an accounting student at Longwood University, planning to graduate in May 2018.

Updated January 2, 2018, 4:06pm

Social media providers focus and emphasize the benefits of using their sites and the protections that are in place to prevent harm to their users. What they often do not mention is the risk that the users pose to themselves when disclosing personal information online.

The risks of disclosing personal information online include things such as online crimes, potential employment consequences after employers view an individual’s private pages and information, and unknowingly having your personal information accessed by both government and corporate entities.

Perhaps the biggest potential harm has to do with employment issues and employers discovering unsavory aspects of a potential or current employee’s personal life. Individuals may be judged on old views or opinions expressed on social media that do not necessarily represent them anymore.  This is also troublesome because the information posted may be misinterpreted without proper context that can lead to further issues between employer and employees.

One should also be aware of the risk posed by the social media provider and the government. Agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) can access private posts and messages on social media. In addition, the government requests data and information from social media, and of the more than 40,000 requests made to Twitter and Facebook in 2015 by the government, 80% were answered by the sites ( The government seems to be very able to access some of the most private information disclosed by its users when it comes to social media.

An area of concern when disclosing personal information online is internet crimes, including identity theft, fraud, or locational crimes. In Brake’s “Sharing Our Lives Online: Risks and Exposures of Social Media” he asserts multiple times that while these crimes cause a social panic, they are actually much rarer than they are portrayed to be. On top of this, he mentions that there has been little research to conclude that these crimes are a result of social media disclosure and not of other factors (Brake).

While online self-disclosure does subject users to some risks, when done in an appropriate manner in can unlock a variety of benefits. These benefits include expanding your professional network, maintaining relationships with convenience and little to no financial cost, and can contribute to society’s well-being. These are the reasons why so many people are forgoing the risks of disclosing their personal information online.

Two of the most obvious benefits of social media are the ability to expand your professional network and represent yourself in a professional fashion. Disclosing personal but professional information on social network platforms can give users an opportunity to network and connect with potential employers or clients that they would otherwise not have access to. This provides a financial incentive for users as they can use social media to advance and support their career or job.

Another way that an individual can use social media for their benefit is to keep in touch with family and friends at almost no cost. It allows users to stay connected more conveniently and can save time and money compared to other channels of communication. Allowing others a look into your life via the personal information you post gives you a better sense of closeness with friends and family and lets you regularly “interact” with them by posting, commenting, etc. (teachandreflect). This can facilitate closer relationships and allow individuals to achieve more personal fulfillment in their social lives.

Social media’s platform is so large that it can give its users the ability to look at people’s information outside of their immediate community. Depending on what people choose to disclose about themselves, they can gain support for a cause or issue of concern rapidly by reaching to outside communities via social media. A user’s online presence can act as almost an advertisement showing how to spread goodwill or encouraging others to spread goodwill in society.

While risks involving employer harm, government accessing personal information, and online crimes can be scary, they can be easily preventable by the user exercising discretion when it comes to what they self-disclose online. One should use just as much if not more caution when revealing information about oneself online. To do this, one should think about just how many people are able to access the information that they put up, and know that it is possible for it to be accessed or copied by or to an outside party. Lastly, just as one would lock their car or house door, one should protect personal information online and periodically delete old or excessive information.

Online self-disclosure clearly has its advantages and disadvantages, potential benefits and harms. While the risks of harm are very much real, if users exercise proper discretion by taking the time to think about the things they post online, who the audience might be, and how the audience might interpret that message, these harms drop to a minimal level. I believe that the benefits for the online users themselves and for society outweigh the potential harms as long as the users practice appropriate discretion when disclosing personal or private information about themselves.


Brake, D. (2014). Sharing our Lives Online: risks and exposure in social media. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. (2017, August 18). Social Networking Retrieved from

Teachandreflect. (2010, March 29). Social Networking in Schools – do the benefits outweigh the risks? Retrieved December 28, 2017, from

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