Social media is a wonderful tool to help stay connected with family and friends. It has bridged distances and brought the world closer as never before. The best feature of this kind of connectivity is the pleasure derived from being able to share our lives with others and feel involved in theirs. However, as with many innovations, social networking comes with its own set of challenges, which is why moderation and caution need to be exercised at all times.
Social networking sites are online platforms where users can create a personal profile and interact with others on the same site. The idea is to connect with friends by sharing personal information and that is where, knowingly or otherwise, we can become vulnerable. The virtual world often encourages us to reveal much more about ourselves than we would if we were meeting someone in person. This makes it important to observe basic rules and guidelines to stay safe while making optimal use of technology.
Here are some of the best practices for safe social networking. These will ensure you make use of social media in the most positive way and help to eliminate risks associated with it.
- Never disclose too much information about yourself such as contact details, your address or your daily schedule.
- Go through the terms and conditions even if they might seem tiresome to read. Check out if there are adequate privacy measures in place and change any default settings to those that provide you with maximum security. Ideally, your profile should be visible only to your friends, and not to friends of friends.
- Disable the geolocation feature so that details about your location are never included in your posts.
- Make sure you are aware how to block unwanted users from connecting with you and accessing your content.
- Pick a user name that is neutral and protect your account by using strong passwords that include upper and lower case letters, symbols and digits. It is always a good idea to change passwords regularly.
- Watch out for any posts in which you are tagged by your friends and for any comments that might reveal unnecessary personal details about your location, routine and activities. Never post any holiday dates that might end up as a valuable resource for a burglar.
- Guard against fake friend requests and posts from groups asking you to visit and ‘like’ their pages. Be wary of strangers on social media just as you would in the real world.
- While commenting on posts, make it a point to remain neutral and never get into any arguments on any sensitive topics that might be construed as offensive.
- Ensure that you have installed internet security programs on your computer and that all anti-virus software is up to date. As “malware” or malicious code spreads via the social network, be wary of links posted on your friend’s profile pages. Do not click on obscured URLs without verifying them (by using URL preview services such as expandmyurl.com or longurlplease.com) first. Once you have determined the site as genuine, use a bookmark to access that site in future.
- Guard against hijacking of your account by looking out for any warning signs – for example, passwords not working or any logins into your account at times when you were not online. You can set up alerts that send you an email if your account was accessed from a different location, or a different device from the one you usually use.
A little prudence will go a long way in keeping your social networking account private and safe. Keep the above steps in mind while you enjoy communicating with your friends, no matter where you are in the world.