It’s expected these days to have one or more social media accounts. People will ask to add you on Facebook or connect on LinkedIn as easily as they’ll ask for your phone number. It’s simple for most people to find you online, too, since your profiles are only a search of your name away. For this reason, it’s essential to use basic social media safety strategies to keep your identity, information, and self safe.
There are a number of potential dangers or problems that posting on social media can create.
- Future employers may canvas the Internet to do research about you before selecting you for a new position. If anything questionable – or even not to their taste – appears, you could lose out on a fantastic opportunity.
- Dangerous people have as much access to the Internet as you do. Whether it’s someone stalking you or a criminal staking out your home to rob when you’re away, social media is a powerful tool to help someone follow along with your life.
- When all your information is online, it’s that much easier for someone to steal your identity and use it for fraudulent financial transactions that can create serious and expensive problems for you.
Remember that even if you limit who can see your posts or delete something, everything you post has the potential to stay online forever. Screenshots can be preserved and come back when you least expect it. Since your online reputation has the potential to create such a wide range of issues, it’s important to take basic precautions to protect yourself.
Even if everyone on your social media networks is a trusted friend, don’t let that stop you from using discretion in what you post. Discretion is the most important quality you can have when it comes to posting online.
Discretion on social media is nothing more than choosing what you post carefully and ensuring that nothing too private, offensive, or embarrassing is associated with you. It’s also extremely important to be discrete because a person who is friends with you may feel obligated to pass on information you’d rather was private to another friend of theirs.
For example, if you seek legal advice on domestic violence, don’t post that fact on Facebook. There are some things that need to be kept under wraps. Any legal issue is something you should only post about with your lawyer’s permission.
Clearly posting some personal information online is unavoidable if you want to use the power of social networking. But some things that seem minor can actually be more impactful than you expect. For example, your phone number, address, and birthday can all be answers to security questions or identifying information when you’re signing up for something. Keep that kind of information to yourself; the people who need it can get it directly from you.
Heading out of the house – whether it’s to get a coffee or a dream vacation to a tropical island – is often a reason to post on social media. Consider instituting a delay between when you post and when you’re at a specific place. That way, no one can show up unexpectedly and create problems.
So many sites make it easy to tag yourself at a location, which makes that information available to anyone who follows you and has the right permissions. Even if you don’t allow geographic access, pictures or statements can still reveal more than you intend. Signaling that you’re out of the house also lets anyone trying to get inside without your knowledge know that they have a clear shot.
Play it safe and don’t let social media know where you are at all times.
Remember that friends and followers can often tag you in posts that then appear on your public profile. Most social media sites that allow tagging also have an option for you to review any tagged posts before they appear publicly. Make use of this option. If your best friend uploads a picture of tickets to a movie the two of you are seeing together, someone you’re trying to avoid could show up if they’re following your social media closely. Wait until after the event to allow the image to show up on your profile – or don’t allow it at all, if you don’t like the way a particular post makes you appear.
Check Your Social Media Footprint
If you’ve never done a Google search for your name, do it today. A clever searcher may be able to find you even if your name is common by including other identifying information, like a city, state, or educational institution. By finding out what’s out there, you have the chance to control the information and get anything you don’t like removed before someone else does the same search.
It’s also important to use the privacy functions on your social media sites judiciously. Make sure that things you’re sharing are only going out to those you want to see them. Things posted as private on certain sites can even be accessed without an account. Never post anything remotely personal publicly; make sure that everything that can be restricted is.
By obeying some basic safety guidelines, your use of social media won’t stir up any issues for you in the future. Quite the contrary. You’ll look like a savvy person with a firm grasp on their public persona. If you haven’t done a social media checkup, start today – and from now on, be careful and thoughtful with every post you make.