As we continue to evolve in this ‘digital millennium’, various platforms of social media sites are popping up everywhere. First, we tinkered with Xanga, a popular blog site that allowed you to blog about your thoughts while also being able to customize your page layout and theme. After that came the ever so popular Myspace which virally exploded like a Mentos (The Fresh Maker) in a liter of Coke. Now, were plugged-in at almost all times on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Blogger, Twitter and more! And, the explosion of smartphones has taken the world by storm, spewing IPhones out and into any open hands it sees. This virtually allows me to be able to check the stocks, catch up on my email, see what Stuart is eating for breakfast and find out what Oprah had to say about the Olympics all before I get out of bed at 6:00 A.M.
As a community, we’re all so engulfed into seeing what each other are doing at all times. I can personally say I that I feel like I know all 800 something + friends of mine on Facebook, just by reading their updates and seeing their photo posts in a real-time news feed. If that’s not kind of scary to you, it should be.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am addicted to all forms Social Media. I love taking photographer-esque pictures on Instagram and editing them via vintage apps. I am a serial Facebook status updater (just once a day!) who loves connecting with people from my past that I don’t see every day. Social media sites are great for linking up and staying connected. Through social media, you can find family members you never knew you had or re-kindle that old flame. Old classmates share their life updates so you can keep on track with sending birthday cards, holiday gifts, etc. All of said social media sites are excellent ways to stay relevant and even spread the word about your goods and services if you’re a business; if used properly.
As a college student, you always have to be careful about what you’re distributing out on the web for the world to see. Something as innocent and simple as a status update about what restaurant you’re at with a friend is enough to compromise your safety. We get excited about the things were doing (or eating, apparently) or who were with that we find no harm in sharing those things with our friends and family. In retrospect, this is all fine and dandy. But in today’s time, you just can’t be too careful. The good news is that these social media sites (for the most part) have developed excellent security measures in place that you can customize to your individual liking. If you’re new to the social media world or just not sure what precautions you should take to protect your info, don’t freak out. We value your safety just as much as you do, so we’ve come up with a list to help you out.
1-Edit your privacy settings.
Sites such as Facebook have excellent security settings that you can go through individually to alter the protection of your information. You can select the audience for each picture, album or status you post. You can set your profile to private as well, which is highly recommended from sites such as CNET and CIO Magazine. Setting your profile to private allows you to monitor each person that can see anything you post on your page. This way, if there’s someone that you don’t know very well who you’d rather not connect with, you can filter them out and either hide yourself from being searchable, or deny their friend request, for good.
2-Dirty laundry is for the washroom, not the web.
Someone so nicely dented your car this morning and your best friend has said some less than favorable words to an acquaintance of yours. Your boyfriend/girlfriend is ignoring you and your boss is being quite the ‘Grumpy Gus’ on a Monday (your favorite day of the week). No matter how frustrated and annoyed you may get, avoid the temptation to post about it on social media. People often forget that what gets posted on the web stays there forever.
Not to mention, you may have added a coworker or manager at work to your friend’s list and could be setting yourself up for a great deal of hurt with the Boss-man. Whatever you’re going through at that time is upsetting you, so it’s natural to want to discuss it. Just make sure you’re doing so through the right outlets and at the right time. You could be totally fired up about something at one minute and forget about it an hour later. At that point, you’ve already aired your drama to your whole social media community, and they now know your personal business. This kind of thing happens all too often, where people vent about their significant partners or jobs online and get so used to it that they serial post about it hourly. This just turns people off from wanting to communicate with you. No one likes a pessimist. Plus, it’s always much better to handle the situation directly with the person who’s hurt your feelings, like your boyfriend or girlfriend. It may have been a misunderstanding after all, and they’ll really appreciate you airing it out with them and not the whole world.
3-Only allow access to “Trusted” apps.
I have to remind myself about this one all the time. I see my friends reading articles with certain applications that are linked through Facebook and immediately want to click them. In your head you’re thinking, “If so many people on here use this application then it’s definitely safe for me to use”. As simple as that logic sounds, it’s really more complicated than that. The problem with most of those applications is that they aren’t hosted or built by Facebook, but other users like you and I. So, what seems like a normal application could actually be a sneaky tool phishers use to gather your personal information and even post things on your behalf. When you click to “allow” those applications, there’s a lot more that you’re allowing them to do with your data. From sending your personal information (including full name and phone number) to third party companies to hacking your social media site to send out viruses, the owners of these applications pretty much have free reign to do as they wish. So before you go accepting applications and installing them to your phone, make sure you’re really sure what you’re signing up for.
4-Don’t click ads or links on the side of your social media page.
I unfortunately learned this one first-hand last week. There I was browsing on my favorite social media site, when a paid ad on the side of the screen caught my attention. A two pack trial beauty product set for only the cost of shipping and handling. I thought, what do I have to lose? It’s just $2 and if the product sucks then I really haven’t missed out on much.
I bought the products and felt fine about it until the next day. The next morning I got a call from my bank telling me that there were abnormal charges on my card and that my bank information had been compromised. For someone who has all of their funds in one account, this was extremely alarming for me. The customer service rep on the phone went over my charges with me and informed me that they were going to cancel my card and send me a new one. I was grateful that they picked up on the scam alerts and alerted me before my bank account was completely drained. I was upset however, that I had no way to use my card until I got the new one 7-10 business days later.
You really have to be careful about where you enter your information. Besides the fact that my card had invalid charges on it, side links and paid advertisements often contain malware or viruses. Many phishers use outlets such as ads to direct you to a website that looks real, but isn’t. Here, they can pretty much take any information they want from you after you type in a few log in credentials. Your IP address, login, password, friends list, text messages and private messages are now their property, and they do with it as they please. From now on, make sure that when you’re shopping online to scroll to the bottom to find that the site has been verified by credible agencies. If you think something looks phishy (pun intended) it most likely is.
5- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
The purpose of social media sites such as Facebook is to connect with friends and family that you already know. This is unlike sites like Myspace where people networked to meet people they didn’t know. Facebook gives users the convenience of being able to view parts of their profile before accepting or denying a friend request. If you get a friend request from someone you don’t know, don’t accept it. It could be someone who’s looking to gather your information off of your profile and comments or someone who’s making a fake Facebook to spy or keep tabs on you. If you don’t know them, you aren’t missing out on seeing what they’re up to every five minutes. If you aren’t sure if they’re someone you went to high school or college with, you can always click the “mutual friends” option on their profile to see if they may be linked with some of your friends. Sometimes, I meet people out at a party or gathering and forget later where I met them until I look through a few pictures. If you don’t have any mutual friends, keep the request pending until you can verify. If you can’t, the deny button serves its purpose.
6) Weird private messages? Delete them.
Similar to scammers making fake profiles and websites, they also send out viruses and malware in links through social media sites via the private message button. Sometimes they’ll write it with a message such as, “I can’t believe you let this picture of you get out..” with a link that when clicked will virtually bomb your computer for good. You click it because you get worried that there’s some awful looking picture of you half chewing your cheeseburger with your eyes rolled back like the exorcist. In reality, you would remember if a picture like that was taken, and by whom. A random person isn’t going to have access to a funny but embarrassing picture of you, and they certainly wouldn’t link and send it to you in a private message. Use your common sense when getting weird emails and messages and don’t click anything unless you trust the sender.
There are tons of tips and tricks that you can look up at any time that will give you further insight on how to protect yourself on social media. If you aren’t sure about your privacy settings, ask someone to help you out, and don’t put anything on your profile that you wouldn’t want people seeing.
Image: // Wynnsolutions.com