This article originally appeared on 60 Second Social and is part of the ‘Be Safe. Be Social’ series.
The Internet can be a fantastic place, but it can also be a dangerous place. Cyberbullying is becoming more common to see than ever before, your Facebook or Twitter page is now a digital CV. Employers, universities and schools are trawling through the vast array of information that we now willingly make available online to the general public.
While the celebs can afford to employ someone to clean up their digital mess, for the rest of us it is important to think before you post. An Internet savvy teenager can still end up being vulnerable prey of trolls and online abuse. With that in mind, try to think of the following when you use your favourite social network.
1. If it is online – It’s public!
What you put up on the Internet is public, it is searchable and it can be found. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because you set a profile to private that nobody else can get in. You put something online, you have no control over who screenshots that content and who decides to share it and where they decide to share it to. Putting content online is like using a permanent marker these days, you can delete it however a copy is stored somewhere on be it on a cached web page or a screenshot on someones computer. Think before you put something online, if it is something that you would not want a certain audience to see, like a potential employer or a university then don’t put it online at all.
2. The digital tattoo
Recruiters and universities love social media, it is allowing them to research applicants in a way which has never been done before. The Internet has a hard time forgetting that one mistake you may have made, especially if you have had the misfortune of that mistake going viral. It is like having a digital tattoo, how you live your life on social media ends up being reflected when you go for a job later on down the line. Recruiters will research a candidate on Facebook and Twitter before deciding to employ, it is almost part of the recruitment process by now. Having a poor online reputation as a result of poor choices you have made in the past could come back to haunt you. Again, think before putting it up there.
3. Think of who you may be affecting around you
We all love a good rant from time to time on social media. In fact, social media has become somewhat of a ‘go-to’ place for ranting over the past few years, it allows people to vent frustrations and get their voice heard as opposed to a face to face setting. What happens when those little rants start affecting others, for instance what if you write something like.
“I wish my Dad would quit his job! He says he hates his job and his boss.”
While this is a pretty innocent comment to make, you need to consider the fact that word of mouth spreads. A common conversation theme these days is what has been going up on Facebook, with so many people sharing what they are doing and their life details it makes it easier for people to gossip. It a comment like the one above were to spread to your Dad’s boss then all of a sudden your parents could end up in more trouble than bargained for. It is important to take into consideration that the actions you take online could have larger consequences for others, especially individuals you are posting about.
4. Familiarise yourself with privacy settings
Privacy settings won’t protect you from everything but they will provide a certain level of protection on social media. We will be going through the main privacy tools and how to use them in this article series over the coming weeks however it is important to know the basics. Do you know how to make a post which only gets seen by certain users? Know how to flick between public and private posts before hitting the post button? Browse the privacy settings on your Facebook profile, make sure you are sharing what you want to share, not what Facebook thinks you should share.
5. Personal information
The cruelest form of cyberbullying is when the bully hijacks an account, locks them out, takes personal details and then plays the victim. Social media and the Internet in general is a fast moving arena, it moves so fast that by the time you get control back over the account who knows where their name, details and online reputation could be smeared on the Internet. Online information travels fast. The key is to never put yourself in a position where you could lose control of your account.
A lot of people create weak passwords by nature, we need it to be something easy to remember so that we can get back in, right? Well the problem with that is you create an easy password, like your dogs name and your date of birth and it opens up the chance for anyone to get in and do whatever they feel like. It is important to mix up your passwords, use letters, numbers and symbols as well as different cases to set a strong password to prevent someone else getting into your account.
Make sure you set different passwords for every single website you use, if you use the same password for everything and I manage to crack that password, well now I have access to everything you use. Keeping different passwords for everything means I can only get into one part of the puzzle, a strong password means a good chance I am not getting in at all. Invest in password software, like 1Password (this is the software I use) to keep track of what passwords you are using and where.
A small bit can go a long way in protecting yourself online and especially on social media. It is all about awareness, we are by no means saying to adopt a boring strict regime with social media. It is about having fun and enjoying it, however you need to be aware the implications that a post can make on yourself, your future prospects and others around you. If it is something you would not directly say to someone, then its better to not say it online.
About The Author
Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis. He has an Advanced Diploma in Psychology and a Diploma in Digital Marketing And Social Media. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here. Or you can drop Mark an email at, [email protected]