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Since the dawn of social media, people have been sharing views and building connections based on shared interests. However, as new research from Kaspersky on consumer attitudes towards social media and privacy reveals, what we post on social media can have negative consequences, seriously impacting both personal relationships and career prospects.

According to the study, 42% of Brits claim their social media profiles don’t authentically represent them – in fact, a third (32%) of those who have reviewed or deleted old social media posts have done so in the past two years (with 7% willing to go back even further) and almost a fifth (18%) wish to remove argumentative comments on posts. On the other hand, the research also found that less than a quarter (23%) would not like to remove anything from their social media presence as judgement thrives online.

While social posts may not be indicative of our true selves, judgements are often made about people based on their online interactions. The five topics that were cited as having the possibility to cause the most issues in the future are:

1.      Using language that’s derogatory towards disabled people

Listed as the most damaging type of post was the use of derogatory language towards disabled people. Almost two fifths (39%) of people said that they thought this type of post would cause issues with career prospects and/or harm relationships in the future. 58% of respondents also said that their views of someone would be negatively impacted if they saw them liking a comment or post that was derogatory about a person’s appearance.

2.      Using anti-trans language

Second was anti-trans language, with 35% of people expecting this to cause serious issues. Social media watchdogs have noted a significant increase in anti-trans social media activity, with 1.5 million transphobic comments found amid a wider conversation on LGBT rights. These posts were most often linked to other divisive topics including politics, race, and religion. And almost three in five (58%) 22 to 34 year olds said they would think negatively of someone who liked posts that were openly transphobic or homophobic.

3.      Anti-vax attitudes

Throughout the pandemic, social media has been a space for information sharing and community connection. However, at times, these online spaces have become breeding grounds for divisive and challenging debates. Almost a third (32%) of Brits said that they thought posts that included anti-vaccine views could cause harm in the future and 45% said that their view of a person would be negatively impacted if they saw them like an anti-mask or anti-vaccine post.

4.      Climate change denial

More than a quarter (26%) of people think posts that deny climate change could be particularly harmful, while 38% would think negatively of someone who liked an anti-climate change post, rising to more than two fifths (41%) in the over-35 age group. Additionally, 35% of people would think negatively of someone who liked a post about a conspiracy theory.

5.      Using gender-specific pronouns

As more social media platforms invite users to add their preferred pronouns to their profiles, people have expressed their belief that using gender-specific pronouns in posts may later cause harm. One in five people said that they’d expect this to cause issues in the future as more people take on gender neutral pronouns. Currently social media users add their preferred pronouns to profiles in an act of solidarity to non-binary and trans communities in a positive step for inclusivity.  

David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, comments: “What our research underlines is the permanent nature of what we share on social media, since off-the-cuff remarks to friends, colleagues or strangers can be permanent and difficult to delete, in contrast to ephemeral interactions of pre-digital times. Conversations about cultural and social causes can give rise to heated debate and even online abuse and we advise people to be mindful of who can view their posts and what happens to them even after they are edited or deleted.

We urge people to be authentic in what they say within the bounds of what’s legal and with respect for other people’s individual human rights. However, consumers also need to be conscious that what they post is likely to be a permanent record, available to easily access by anyone for years after. It is best to use social media with caution and think carefully about whether views should be expressed privately or publicly to avoid any regret further down the line”.

Tony Neate, CEO at Get Safe Online, comments: "Social media is an incredible tool on both a personal and professional level, allowing individuals, groups, communities and organisations to connect, communicate, inform, influence and respond instantly. However, as with all cultural and technological explosions, a degree of caution should be exercised which can be all too easy to forget after having become familiar with platforms for a while. Failure to do this can result in far-reaching consequences for both ourselves and others. Today's research findings from Kaspersky remind us of the importance of taking care when commenting, posting or sharing, and remembering that what goes online stays online." 

Note to editors

This research was designed to find out what people feel might harm their job prospects, as opposed to showcasing the topics that employers are using to filter and discriminate against applicants. These findings are a reflection of the fears our respondents already have and not the opinion of Kaspersky (or anybody who works at Kaspersky)

When sharing isn’t caring: the five social posts you may live to regret

A third (32%) of Brits have reviewed or deleted an old social post (from 1-2 years ago) due to their perception of what is deemed socially acceptable. New research has revealed which topics are seen as the most inflammatory on social media, with derogatory language and anti-vax views coming out on top
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