Ever posted something on Facebook only to regret it and run to delete it? Now that everyone and their grandma is on Facebook (seriously, your grandmother just created her profile!) it’s never been more important to conduct your social networking in a mindful way. You’ve heard the warnings about not posting photos of your wild night on the town or ranting about how dumb your boss is, yet people continue to commit these mistakes day in and day out. We use Facebook and other social networks so frequently, uploading photos, checking into locations, tagging friends, using geo-location services; we fail to realize the digital trail we’re creating. In fact, you might think of your collective social media use as your personal vault – which simply gives the facts, ma’am, making no judgment of your online risks and blunders, just recording the data.
When asked how they feel about their online privacy, young people recognize there’s a tradeoff: I’ll share my information and you’ll market the things I’m interested in to me. Yet, sharing too much or with too many people can get you into trouble. Take vacation posts: the common wisdom for managing your vacation use of social networks is NOT to post your travel plans because of concerns someone might break into your home. Yet many of us have apps that post our itinerary or we use photo sharing services that tag our location when we use them with our social network. I actually am one of those security people who is pretty comfortable with either scenario. My home has locks, a security system and two mean dogs. (Actually they are kind of cute and fluffy but they do bark a lot). And we always hire a house sitter so our house is never really empty.
Or for example, geo-location which is a great feature of mobile devices and social media. Even when you are hyper-security conscious, it’s easy to be tempted to share your location. There’s a cool, gourmet taco truck and restaurant in my area (LA, but you probably guessed that) that gives 20% off when you check in on Facebook. That’s a significant discount so of course, I always check in and so do all my friends. It’s great marketing since my Facebook newsfeed each evening displays a mention of the restaurant and gives the appearance that EVERYONE is having beef and duck confit burritos!
It’s still a best practice to be very careful about when you post your location or use your location-based services. While it’s quite rare for anyone to be targeted by a stranger, the variety of situations that are complicated by announcing your location are staggering. For example, kids can find out that there’s a party they weren’t invited to; a teen might be alerted that their boyfriend is out when he said he was studying; a boss might discern an employee was at job interview, etc. For a humorous take on this, you might want to view this video from College Humor.
Take control over how you use social networking. Make conscious decisions about choosing the best security settings (make sure you are alerted to any logins from unknown devices, etc); limit who can see your posts, review how your profile appears to someone who isn’t in your network. To review these settings click the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of Facebook while logged into your account. Then select “Privacy Settings”. Have you ever played a game on Facebook? Did you know that the game developer may still have some level of access to your information? Make sure you only keep in your network people, companies, groups and game developers you still want around. You can access your app settings from the “Apps” icon on the left side of the page after you clicked the gear icon and select something.
To give yourself a preview of how easy it is to find odd things out using Facebook, give the new graphic search tool a try. Look for a person or people who share unusual combinations of interests, like fans of the Arctic Monkeys who are gluten intolerant. Facebook will dutifully find those people and report them back to you. And when you find those people, you can send them a friend request, view their profile and if they’ve failed to use their privacy settings, look at posts and photos. It does give one pause.
When you post, have fun. Share photos, videos, locations, thoughts and comments but do so mindfully. Don’t be this guy.