I love the World Wide Web; how did I ever live without it? Encyclopaedia Britannica didn’t have iTunes or YouTube! I live a full life on the web, especially in social media: every single day in this world, I write, create, share and express — sometimes a little too much. We can get so comfortable online that we forget about our own safety while cruising down the information highway. We preach the safety and perils of the internet to children and teenagers, but do we practice it ourselves? Or are we going Mach 5 without a seatbelt?
Do you really know who reads your tweets and status posts, or watches every move you make on FourSquare? Of course you don’t; how could you possibly? Alas, I know this shortcoming all too well, from creepy, unwanted first-hand experience (but that is a whole other story). Aside from going off-grid, you simply cannot protect yourself 100% online, and there is a lot more to worry about nowadays than just your computer catching a virus. If you are going to play in the “sharing” pool, you need to make sure you’re protected (like a Social Media Condom). Here are five prime pieces of advice.
Seems obvious, but so many people still use simple pet names or kids names. A strong password requires numbers, characters and uppercase letters. You should also change passwords a couple times every year. I try to do mine in the spring and fall, when I change the clocks.
Check Your Settings
Many social media sharing sites make frequent platform changes; unless you keep up with this, what was private at one time may suddenly become public. It’s worth taking the time to go through your settings on all of your social media sites — and check those settings regularly. Fact is, right now, you may be sharing way more than you think you are.
Consider Being “Dis-Located”
Turn off the Geotags/Location finders! With everything being so mobile these days, almost all your phone apps have geotags of some sort that will add your location to whatever you’re sharing. Do you really want complete strangers knowing exactly where you are? OK: If you are at a party or an event with a group of people, that’s one thing. But be mindful when you’re alone — you don’t want to be a human homing beacon.
Watch for the Signs
If you are signing in on a public computer, be sure it doesn’t store your email address and password. Check the browser settings before you start (try to use the Privacy setting, usually control-P) and be sure to clear all Cookies and History before you log out.
Watch Your Mouth!
Keep in mind that everything you post will be read by other people — and possibly shared with more people. Per the famous ’80s shampoo commercial, You’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. With that exponential pattern in mind: It’s not a great idea to tell the world you’re heading on vacation and leaving your home empty for a week. Or that you’re home alone for the night. In this situation, less is more.
Social media and sharing sites are supposed to be fun and enrich our lives and experiences. And they do do that. Still, when you are enjoying their services and experimenting with their different platforms, apps and sites, be sure to “wear protection”!!
Please share any of your online safety tips with our readers; the more we can share ideas and information with others, the better our experiences will be.
Dee Brun is the award-winning author of Libations of Life: A Girl’s Guide to Life One Cocktail at a Time, a cocktail chef and stylist, TV personality, home entertaining guru, writer, humorist, wife, mother of 4, TV Junkie, shoe-aholic, and borderline George Clooney stalker. Read her column, Isn’t it Deelightful, every Friday on Slice.ca.