Seun had a very active profile on most social networking sites. He was everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Hi5 MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr, you name it; if there’s a social network around, Seun was in. Trouble was he felt he needed to share everything in real life online; from what he ate for breakfast, to his brother’s new appointment, his annoying lecturer, the grammatical error his VC made during a speech and so on; as long as something happened, he was sharing it. Being on a social network was the coolest thing ever.
In his third year, he was nominated for a respected position in his campus club. Students who attained that level usually had the opportunity to meet with highly regarded individuals in the society and were known to even have job opportunities waiting for them upon graduation. Unfortunately, some students quoted statements Seun had made on twitter a month earlier. They were offensive and derogatory statements that didn’t sit well with the values of the club and his nomination was cancelled.
Seun’s case isn’t an isolated one as there are lot’s of sob stories due to the indiscretions of social media users. While most people who use social networking sites are well intentioned, you need to be careful about the information that you share and how you protect it. This is because people can inadvertently or intentionally use your information to embarrass you or damage your reputation, or to even steal your identity, putting your safety or your future at risk.
Here’s the caveat to never forget: the words and images you post on the Internet may be available for years, and your profile may be viewed by future employers and school admissions officials, as well as identity thieves, spammers, and stalkers.
The following tips will also help you take more control of your social media activity:
Be careful how much information you share
Once information is online, it is not easy to remove it completely. The photos, comments, messages and wall posts that you share could be seen by anyone, and are not always removable if you change your mind. Often when you apply for a job or internship, companies may check to see if you have an online profile. Be aware that the photos and information you share with your friends may not be what you want you prospective employer to see. You can ask yourself this question: is it even worth posting if it is capable of affecting me in future?
Do not post information that would make you vulnerable:
e.g. your date of birth, address, information about your daily routine or holiday plans). This information can be used by criminals to commit identity theft. Users who share addresses, telephone numbers, birthdays, and other personal information put themselves at a greater risk for identity theft, stalking and harassment. This includes information you may post on your wall or someone else’s.
Be wary of strangers
People are not always who they say they are so it is a good idea to limit the number of people you accept as friends. If you are “friends” with people you do not know, be careful about the amount of information that you reveal and don’t agree to meet them in person. Use your social networking site’s privacy settings to limit their access to your information.
Watch out for phishing emails
Emails pretending to be friend requests from social networking sites try to direct people to fake versions of these websites. These fake websites may contain malicious software that could steal your personal information and infect your computer. Never click on links in emails, even if they look genuine, and always type your social networking website address into your browser. Any genuine friend requests will appear on your home page on your social networking site.
Other steps to protect yourself:
Protect your accounts with strong, unique passwords. Never use the same password that you use for your email account. This reduces the chances of a hacker or even your friends logging in to your account without your permission. Have a different password for each social networking site so that if one password is stolen, not all of your accounts will be at risk.