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  • Tanushree Vaish

Being Safe On Social Media

In today’s age of increased digital connectivity, social media has mostly become a part and parcel of our daily lives. It is wholly possible that you have come to this blog after seeing some stories or posts on our Instagram page. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the upcoming Tiktok and other platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr have become words that most people recognise, even if they are not on the platforms themselves. It has become a free and fantastic way to be up to date with what is up in the world and to also keep a track of what your near and dear ones are up to. These platforms are fairly easy to use, and all you need is basically the will to engage.

However, that being said, the internet is also a scary place, where there are no real taskmasters. If you are not careful with how you use your social media profiles, it can end up being quite troublesome for you. Cybercriminals are on the rise, which threatens the safe spaces that social media platforms are often viewed as. There can be many types of criminal activity that you might fall victim to. Some are listed below:

  • Cyberbullying, which has been defined in the Merriam Webstar dictionary as “The electronic posting of negative or mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously.” Cyberbullying can take up many different forms- exclusion, harassment, outing, cyberstalking, impersonation, dissing, trolling, catfishing.

  • Phishing, where the information you have used on your social media can be used to trick you into believing that the illegal correspondence is from a legitimate, trusted source. These messages can very well come from your friends or families, who might themselves be the victim of phishing. You’ll know about this in great detail if you have watched the Jamtara web series on Netflix.

  • Social engineering is a practice, where various deceptive measures are used to obtain confidential information about you. This is like phishing, but harder to identify and catch.

  • Data breaches have also become a common affair when it comes to social media. The ill-famed Cambridge Analytica was only one instance where data of over 50 million users were exploited to influence the 2016 US presidential elections. Privacy is becoming more and more of an issue when it comes to social media, and it is thus important to be well versed on how the platforms use the vast amount of data you leave behind on the sites, and if they are selling it to advertisers or other third parties.

  • Malware is basically a sort of malicious software, which is made so as to infiltrate your devices. These often are accompanied by clickbaity captions and suspicious-looking links, clicking on which might initiate a chain of events that could potentially harm your device.

Our motive behind this article is not to scare you, but only to make you aware of the dangers that might be lurking in the deep dark crevices of the internet. It along with all the social media platforms of a regular day are wonderful places to spend your time on, but you also have to be mindful of the information that you are sharing, in order to prevent it from being misused.

Here are some tips to ensure that your social media experience is safe and harassment-free!

Do not overshare:

While it might be tempting to share your experiences, on social media, in great detail, to narrate a more authentic experience, it is advisable that you do not reveal too much personal information that might be held against you later. Talking about bank details, passwords and home addresses and phone numbers with free abandon is a strict no-no, as it might make it easy for you to fall victim to crimes ranging from stalking to identity theft.

Ensure that you are connecting with real profiles:

Catfishing has gone up by leaps and bounds and is one of the main components of cyberbullying. You must be rational while connecting with profiles, verify them to the best of your ability and make sure that the content they post or the communication they indulge in is not coming across as ‘too good to be true.’ Setting up false profiles with the purpose of sending malicious content, links or files is becoming very common, and you must be abreast of the kind of behaviour these trolls and accounts engage in.

Do not ignore the “password is weak” warning

We all know what the thought process is when the system says that your password is weak. But when it does say your password is weak it is definitely a better idea to not ignore it, or be irritated by it, and actually change it to a more irregular one with characters and numbers and capitals and all. It is also important to have different passwords for different social media sites and those ideally should be changed every three months. All this is a basic attempt to prevent hackers from gaining easy access to your account, which can be then used to post spam or malicious content.

Use the block feature liberally if necessary:

Every social networking platform provides an option to block followers or friends who might be giving you unwanted and unwarranted attention. Use this feature well in order to make your experience of the social media platforms a lot more comfortable. Blocked or restricted contacts cannot see your content, and this blocking tool is definitely a must-have to prevent online harassment.

Remember what happens online stays online:

While sharing information you must take into account the fact that once it's on the internet, which is on the internet for good. Whatever data you feed into your social media platforms will be there for other parties to use forever. Your initial Facebook activity with tagging your friends as characters of shows might be embarrassing, they are not potentially dangerous or usable in terms of criminal activity, but any sort of sensitive information you put out might end up being the gateway to unwanted attention. It requires a lot of effort and resources to trail the internet and remove them. If moreover, the information is screenshot or saved then there is nothing you can do about it. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you post content that will not harm your future prospects, relationships, or leave you vulnerable to criminal activities.

Delete your old accounts

Remember that Myspace account or the old Facebook account that you just stopped using one day? Deactivate and delete those. It not only increases your carbon footprint, it also leaves your personal information out for anyone to use, unnecessarily.

Know what your profile comes across as:

To correctly gauge how and what information other people can access about you, it is good practice to open your account from another person's profile, possibly a friend, a family member or an acquaintance, to see how your profile looks from the perspective of someone conducting a search on you, once when the profiles are not connected, and once when they are. It will tell you what information another person can view on your profile and also check whether there are any fake accounts set up in your name

Be aware of how you can control comments:

If you are somebody who is extremely active on social media, comments on your posts and pictures must be a fairly regular occurrence. Most social media platforms now offer several mechanisms to ensure that only registered users can comment, which requires the commenters to go through an authentication process. It is thus important to make sure that this feature is activated on your profiles, to prevent trolling or the possibility of getting useless, offensive or borderline harassing comments.

Do not take privacy settings lightly:

Most social media platforms and social networking sites have a default privacy setting which the majority of users feel are sufficient enough. This is why they do not put in extra effort to make changes. However, it is important that you go through your privacy settings after logging in on a platform and customise it as per your comfort. You with just a few clicks will be able to control who gets to see your content, your stories and who all can interact with said content.

Read the privacy policy:

Most social networking sites have a Users Terms and Conditions, where we all tick the ‘I accept the terms’ option without much care about what we are actually agreeing to. It is advisable to at least go through it, even if perfunctorily, such that you can be aware if the site is claiming no-responsibility for data breach, or if they are making you accept the fact that your data can abd will be sold to third parties or advertisers.

Final thoughts

As the saying goes, it’s best to err on the side of caution and that is possibly the best advice when it comes to being safe on social media. Be wary of clicking on links and attachments on social media. Know that anything that asks you to be redirected to another website for a prize or a free offer is generally bad news. Also, be wary of social media friends who seem to be asking you rather personal or strange questions. If the name of the profile is of someone who is your friend in real life, verify with them, because it might be so that scammers have created a fake profile in your friend’s name to bait you into sharing the information they need.

Sure, remember to have fun on these platforms, but also rationally think about the consequences before taking any steps, because, in today’s world where everyone is dependent on digital communication, it is quite easy for people looking to commit illegal acts to actually trap you with their apparent niceties.


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