Putting It All Out There
We like to be online. Sure, we’ve all heard horror stories of its potential dangers, but we’ve never really been hurt by it, right? If the only ill-effects from your social media use is the odd flame war, I want to help you keep it that way. In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, I want you to take a moment and stop and think about how you use social media.
Much of social media is designed for instant feedback: live posting, live comments, thumbs, retweets…all of it thrives on being instantaneous. Before you post, take a moment to think about the timing of your posts: extra time can provide both security and clarity. We’ve all heard the warnings about how thieves monitoring your Twitter account might know that you’re out of town from your posts, but what about other safety issues? According to a US Department of Justice study released this past January, a majority of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by an acquaintance they know casually. Do you really need to inform your cohort or loose acquaintances that you are at a certain bar, implying that you might be walking home drunk later? Secondly, consider if you are in the correct mindset to post: are you angry? Tired? Drunk? It’s probably the wrong time to post.
On the topic of loose acquaintances, do you ever stop to think about every person who will receive your personal posts? A couple of tips about your audience: 1. Narrow your audience. Check each social media site where you post personal information and limit it to close family or friends; 2. Control your feed. Alter settings on social media sites to allow you to approve all posts to your page before they become public; 3. Remember that friends change. Make regular trips through your friend or followers lists to pull out anyone that should no longer receive personal posts.
You should also make a point of considering the content of your posts. Some tips to help prevent future problems: 1. Research yourself. What organizations do you follow? What political comments have you made? Have you complained about your past employers? Have you bragged about illegal activity? According to a survey by CareerBuilder, around 60% of employers research job candidates on social media. If you can find it, so can a past, current, or future boss. 2. Think twice before posting at all. While the wording or timing of a post might make quite a difference, sometimes it’s just better to leave it out altogether. 3. Double check your settings. Again. Keep your personal and professional worlds separate by customizing your privacy settings and regularly checking to make sure personal information doesn’t reach the wrong audience.
I hope this is all seems common sense to you. Hopefully, you are already doing these things to let social media work for you, not against you. If not, hopefully this has given you a clear place to start to protect yourself online.
John Lovelace is an information assurance analyst in the NIATEC program at Idaho State University.