How To Be A Safe and Smart Social Networker
How cool is it that we can at a click of a mouse or the press of a “send” key be in touch with people thousands of miles away from us, in different time zones or communicate with our best friends and families in an instant? Well, you might argue it isn’t THAT cool in relation to your family, but whatever…we can!
Things like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Skype and MSN/Yahoo Messenger provide us with a quick way of getting information out there, of talking to and interacting with people we know and for that matter people we don’t know too. All this is incredibly awesome, but not without its drawbacks. Here is a savvy guide to being a safe, smart social networker that lets you be able to have fun, but make sure you’re protected.
The TMI Code
It sounds like a dumb place to start, but it really isn’t. You’d be amazed how many people think nothing of posting every last bit of personal info online with others. Just don’t do it! Never give out your home telephone number, mobile phone number, home address or anything with regard to your social security details. On sites like Twitter, choose a handle that doesn’t reveal your real name or identity – hard when you want to be a part of something with your friends, but it’s much better to remain a little anonymous and aloof than go all out there and end up regretting it later.
The Privacy Code
Facebook keeps updating its Timeline structure (seems like they’re rolling a new one out every other day, quite annoying if you don’t like change) but check your privacy options on there and make sure that information you put on there is only available to view by the people you want to view it. It’s easy to do simply by clicking on the “Home” key on the top right hand of the screen, then choosing “Privacy” and looking at all your settings. Try and make it so that only “Friends” and not “Everybody” can view your stuff – do you really want some creep you’ve never even met viewing your Prom photos? No. Thought not…do it…be safe.
Same goes for Twitter, if at all possible (though not everyone wants to do it) think about locking your account down. It sounds harsh, but with Twitter everything you say is out there and anyone can view it unless you choose who you want to view your tweets and keep the use of things like TwitPic to a minimum.
The Selection Code
Be savvy about who you will/won’t accept as a friend. Online friendships can be just as troublesome if not more so than real life ones. On Facebook this is slightly easier as you should really only be accepting people you know in real life, your school/college friends, family members or people that you know from other places you hang out in. On Twitter this is slightly harder as it’s much more open, anyone from anywhere can follow you. There are some real horror stories about people who’ve had all sorts of bad stuff tweeted to them by following seemingly innocent looking accounts (there are some seriously sick people out there who would really benefit from medical intervention or help from alcohol treatment facilities). But you have to remember that it’s your account. You should only feel obliged to follow and speak to who you WANT to and no-one else. Never feel pressured to reciprocate a follow (especially if it’s from someone you don’t know!)
The Blocking Code
If someone hassles you – block. Block. Block. No other way to say it. You don’t deserve to be treated badly online no matter who it’s from, someone you know, a stranger, whoever. Block. Block and move on. However, you need to be aware that blocking on Facebook is very different to blocking on Twitter. A block on Facebook is a proper block – whoever you do it to cannot search for you, see anything about you, posts, photos etc or find out any details ever again – unless you unblock them. A block on Twitter is slightly crazier (and really, Twitter you need to do something about this quick-smart). If you hit the “Block” or “Block And Report Spam” button on there, it just prevents that person from trying to follow you again. It doesn’t prevent them from seeing your timeline or the things you tweet. They can actually still tweet you. It just won’t show up in your @ column, but will appear on their profile. So, as blocking systems go, that’s pretty ineffectual. The only sure-fire way to protect yourself therefore is to (boring I know) put the lock on your account and be really careful about who you add in as a friend.
So there you go, some top tips for staying safe and being a smart social networker. Have fun, but stay cool and be aware!