Too Much Information

By Shiela K. Haynes

TMI. Remember that catch phrase from a few years ago? You’re talking to your friend or colleague and maybe share a few more details than you intended. Awkward. And they might have replied, “TMI!” Too much information.

I am the queen of TMI. Odds are really good that if you’ve gotten locked up with me in conversation, I am going to tell you way more than you ever wanted to know. I know, it’s a flaw that everyone else has to live with. I apologize in advance if I haven’t gotten to you yet.

That said, I see way too much information posted on Facebook on a daily basis. Wow, did he or she really mean that the way it sounded? People you know and encounter regularly are reading this. Does everyone really need to know what your spouse did to offend you, what you had for dinner, or how you spend your time and money?

I could spend five minutes on Google and find out where you live, how much you paid for your house, and who lives there with you. All that information is readily available as public information. If you have social media, I can find out who your friends are, what establishments you frequent, what you are involved in, your relationship status, if you have grandkids, and even your dog’s name. And, if you don’t protect your posts from public viewing, I don’t even have to know you to see all of that.

Not to mention those little “games” that pop up and ask you questions like where you went to high school, your dog’s name, or mother’s maiden name. You do recognize those are scams to help bad actors figure out your passwords, right? I know some of you can’t resist, but you must.

Some of us are just as bad with our cars. TMI. What do your bumper and window stickers say? If you have an honor roll student sticker, everyone can see you have a child and where the child attends school. From that, just about anyone can figure out your schedule. What does that kids’ baseball sticker say? It says you won’t be home Saturday because you will be at a ball field somewhere. I see those little stick families on the back windshields of minivans. So now they know how many people live in your home. And oh, you have a dog in the house.

I have some pretty strong political viewpoints, but I don’t broadcast that on my vehicle. I don’t want to get keyed in a parking lot by a disgruntled member of the other team.

All of that to say, be careful with your information. Random strangers don’t need to be able to figure out your schedule or your vulnerabilities by looking at your social media or reading your bumper at the red light.

I will leave you with a true story (from our Houston days) about the insidious nature of people who want to steal your stuff. I had a co-worker who lived in a rural area outside of the city. The couple parked their cars each night in an unsecured detached garage. They awoke one morning to discover someone had stolen the battery out of one of their cars during the night. Flustered and disconcerted, they shared a ride to work that morning with a plan to figure it all out when they got home that evening.

But when they arrived home, the missing battery was back in place and a letter of apology tucked under the windshield wiper. “So sorry. We broke down near here during the night and borrowed your battery temporarily with the intention of returning it before you left for work. Please forgive us. As payment for your trouble, here are tickets to an upcoming Astros game. Please enjoy.”

Their faith in humanity was restored. Weird situation, but the offender apologized and left a gift.

A few days later, they were ready to enjoy the good seats at the baseball game. Free tickets, fun times. They were gone for a few hours (because we all know major league baseball games last hours and hours). And when they returned home, their house had been completely cleaned out. The thieves got it all. Because they knew exactly where they were and how long they would be gone.

The bad guys are not dumb. Be careful with your information.