As a social media speaker who often finds herself speaking to audiences of Baby Boomers, I find that my job is one part giving information and two parts counseling.  For some reason, a memo went out stating that people on Facebook and Twitter have to share everything about themselves.  Because of this, many of those people who are less comfortable “letting it all hang out”, namely Boomers, are apprehensive.

At a recent networking event, I met an HR manager that we’ll call Betty.  Betty wanted to leverage social media to grow her network and employment opportunities, but was terrified of the plethora of stalkers just waiting for her to open up a Facebook account.  As she spoke, I noted that the more she explained her position, the more tense her body became.   Her reasoning for not using social media was not based on logic, it was based on fear.  All of the misinformation she had collected over the past few years had collected into a large ball of stress in the pit of her stomach.

“I understand your position Betty.  I would avoid social media too if I thought that it would likely put my life and livelihood in danger.  You probably see your children, nieces and nephews on there, sharing tons of random information and participating in online dramas…”  She nodded quickly.  “Here is something I’d like for you to consider though… people will only know what you tell them and you choose what you will post.”  She began to look thoughtful.  “You’re at this networking event with the intention to build relationships, right?”  She nodded.  “You are not giving anyone here your home address or telling anyone about past personal regrets.  You show them who you are professionally.  You might share a little about yourself personally, so that they feel comfortable with you, but you control the words that come out of your mouth.”

Here, a light bulb went off.  Then she said,  “Oh my goodness!  It was never explained to me that way.”

“Let’s take this a step further.  You’re here to network with HR professionals.  The majority of Americans are on social media, so many of your peers are using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  Imagine doing what you are doing here today on a large scale.  You can use social media to share articles, just send a quick “hello” and even connect with people who will be attending the same conferences as you in the near future.”

Her eyes lit up and she hugged me, teary eyed.  It was in this moment that I realized just how heavily this had weighed on her.

During this holiday season, we will go to parties, celebrate with families and take tons of pictures.  In the midst of this, consider what you post on social media sites.  Remember, you really do not have to, nor should you, share everything.  Perhaps sharing what you are thankful for will contribute to your brand.  A picture of your family members on Christmas morning, in their pajamas with sleep in their eyes, may not add to your brand.  Remember, you really do control what you post and how much you share.