Over the past decade and a half, we have witnessed the birth of social media and the rise of big name platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, and YouTube. Facebook, for example, evolved from a social tool for college students to a means for your grandparents to stay connected with your children. As social media consumption has become more widespread, there is a greater expectation to maintain a presence on it. These days, individuals or corporate entities with no online presence may be regarded with some degree of apprehension.
In this world where it’s highly encouraged to have an online presence, it’s very important to make sure that you do so with mindfulness. In this situation, mindfulness refers to the idea of being personally aware of your online presence and how it can affect you in the outside world. Whether it’s judgments made by people who view the content you create or potential employers searching for you, it’s important that your social media presence is one that is in your control and curated by you. Ultimately, a good rule of thumb to have is always be accountable for everything you post online. If you wouldn’t be comfortable with saying something in public, it’s probably best left unposted.
Read on for some starter tips to consider as you go about social media!
1. Use Long Passwords
This is probably the most common tip for anything done online, but it’s common because it works. Long passwords help to secure your personal information. Your password should never be anything related to easily known facts about you, e.g. your birthday, name, pet’s names, children, etc. Most websites will generally ask for something with at least one upper-case letter, lower-case letter, a number, and a special character.
A decent password following these requirements may look like this: S2DfjI!o29joKl7z9T1 – yes, it looks like you just mashed your fingers on the keyboard, and for good reason. A password like this will help you more than IloveDogs789! This is because dictionary words and sequential characters (e.g. 12345, abcde) are extremely easy to crack. Length is just as important as complexity.
2. Adjust Your Privacy Settings and Permissions
All social media platforms have a tool to adjust your privacy settings and what content is available to the public. Make sure that you look into these and toggle them to your liking. Others, such as Tumblr, also have an option to ensure that your blog cannot be searched for via your email (unless you were to share it in a post).
3. Beware of Phishing Surveys and Suspicious Links
Never click on a link sent to you by a stranger. It’s commonplace for bots to generate profiles and send friend requests with links to sites with malicious software. Most of these are easy to avoid with common sense, however there can be more innocuous presentations of threats to your online security. One of the biggest examples of these are the quizzes that make their rounds on platforms like Facebook and Tumblr.
If you have a social media profile with a number of friends, you have probably seen something like the quiz in Figure 1 before. This might seem fairly innocent, but if you look closely you may recognize some of those questions as examples of security questions (e.g. elementary school, first best friend). These things compromise your safety online, as it opens up the potential for someone to potentially guess your password or even reset it, if sites have an opportunity to retrieve forgotten passwords via answering security questions.
Figure 1. Example of a Quiz
4. Be Mindful when Commenting on Public Posts
Publicly shared posts do not follow the same privacy rules as posts created on your own profile. If you comment on a public post, make sure that it’s something you would be okay with saying in person. On Facebook, for example, if you share a video or article from another source, it becomes view-able not only to your friends, but also to whomever the original source designated as the appropriate audience. As such, if it was originally designated as a public post, strangers who come to your profile will be able to view the link on your profile and see what you said about it.
5. Google Yourself
Finally, the last step is to simply search for yourself on Google. Try expanding from more than just your first and last name – look for your email address as well. Make sure that whatever is indexed about you on the search engine is something that you are okay with being found. Your online presence should be what you want it to be, and with these tips in mind you are on the right path toward being in control of how you are presented.
This article was written by Kristina Weber, Content Supervisor of Centry. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Calgary.