The best way to stay safe on social media is to be off it. But that’s not an option for most of us, so here are 7 ways to stay safe on social media as you’re navigating TikTok, Instagram, Reddit and Facebook.
As sad as it is, the reality is that there are a lot of predators, psychopaths, and perverts lurking amongst us. In an ideal world, we can post whatever we like and not fall victim to a scam or bad person, but this world is far from ideal.
The digital social media world is still a fairly young game that has grown in popularity in the past two decades. As such, we have had to navigate social media without many disclaimers or education on how your social media presence can affect you for the long term.
For example, cancel culture is perfectly happy to dig up that tweet you said ten years ago to attack you as a person. Dumb things you said and did as a teenager can be brought up to discredit you in your university applications.
That happy selfie you are about to upload may also contain elements that make you an easy victim. Prevention is better than cure, so here are 7 ways to stay safe on social media, before you upload that next post or share your thoughts with the Internet:
1) Don’t use your real, full name on the Internet
When it comes to the Internet, the less of an open book you are, the better. Even with professional websites like LinkedIn, there is no real reason to publish your real full name to anyone.
We are now in an age where everyone you meet, from HR professionals to even a potential first date, will hit up the search engines to find you. Maintain an air of mystery on your personal social media platforms by using a pseudonym or nickname, so people cannot find you that easily – and learn everything about you before you even meet them.
2) Don’t post content that contain identifiable markers
People want to share everything with the Internet. Do you know who else encourages this type of behaviour? Stalkers and scammers.
Continue maintaining that air of mystery by not tagging where you live, showing your house number, keep identity and credit cards out of the picture, and shove your passport and plane ticket details away from the camera.
The important thing is to not let people know exactly who you are, where you live, and what you are doing. Even if you think you are being slick, someone with an agenda can keep all the information you share with the Internet, and then connect the dots to harm you.
3) Set up a second email as your public email
You do not have to be loyal to your email address. Create a second or even a third one for different purposes. The ideal setup would be one private email for important matters (banking, job-related, PayPal, signing up for different social media accounts), one email for shopping (and marketing junk), and one email to share with the public.
This way, scammers will have a harder time figuring out how to hack into your accounts and taking everything away from you.
4) When posting an experience, don’t post in real time
If you are outside, do not mention where you are until you have left the place. Anyone with bad intentions can just walk up to you and “pretend” to be surprised to have met you there.
Additionally, if you live alone, don’t post about travelling until you have gotten back, because robbers love an empty house, and love knowing that you have handed that information to them by posting happily about it.
5) Don’t write answers to posts asking for personal information
If possible, don’t participate publicly with posts that are asking about things like “post your pirate name by the month and date you are born in”. They don’t care about your pirate name, they care about knowing your birthdate to guess your bank’s security questions.
6) Set up different privacy settings for different people in your circle
If you must share certain content that could be sensitive, such as complaining about your job, make sure publish it only to close friends. Facebook friends lists are a great way to filter out who gets to see what, while Instagram Close Friends list is great to share things with the people you know you can trust.
7) Delete old posts that don’t serve you well
As time goes on, we (hopefully) grow and learn, and some of our old tweets, pictures, and comments do not really reflect ourselves as a person anymore. Check in 2 – 3 times a year to make sure your old posts will not come back to haunt you, and if they are no longer relevant, delete those as well.
Likewise, periodically audit your friends and followers list, and block those that seem dodgy or suspicious. Be mindful and stay safe on social media.
Your safety should be your top priority, whether in real life or online.