Yesterday I shared my top tips for enjoying what is my favourite social media platform – Instagram, of course! – personally or as a business. If you missed that post, click here! The other side to the wonderful fun of social media is one that we talk less about, and that is the safeguarding that really must come with our use.
Being involved in both the music industry in the past and the public square currently, I have had a few security issues in different seasons of life. This is the most I have or will write about my experiences. However, they CAN be really scary and as they have shaped my decisions regarding my online presence, I thought it would be useful to share a few things that can help keep you and me safe online. It isn’t a comprehensive list, but here is what I have found helpful.
Make your profile private
If you aren’t using social media to promote a message/network and want to remain private, select private profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This will mean your posts only reach the people you allow into your sphere. You may need to do some digging into just how private you are, specifically on Facebook, and it’s worth doing that. All that said, there are loopholes that mean the content you post is not legally yours once posted – so be mindful of that, too.
If you are not using private profiles, however, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re safe.
Don’t post patterns/habits
This is a big one: don’t be predictable. You may have a favourite coffee shop haunt you visit every Monday morning after the school-run, or you may only and always shop at that cute green grocer’s round the corner right after his Thursday lunchtime delivery, but don’t let those things be known. Don’t share patterns that make you easy to find (that said, please do post about that coffee shop – I’d love to see what you recommend!)
Don’t post in real-time
Along similar lines to this, I do NOT post live – across all platforms, I wait until I am home or have moved on to another location before I post anything about where I was. This just ensures you can’t be tracked down. The exception to this is if I feel completely safe, like at a busy work conference, and there is benefit to me tweeting updates for example.
Don’t tell me where you live
There is not one photo online that will tell you where I work or where I live. That is something I guard with, eh, much zeal. Let me tell you, both my office and my home are GORGEOUS and I am often tempted to post a photo of a pretty door or street close to me. But I don’t. I can’t.
Similarly, I don’t post phone numbers or physical addresses online. Unless you work at McDonald’s and run a blog about the daily life of a cheeseburger guru, I don’t think you should let people know where your office/house is, either (but if you do write that blog, please send me the URL, I’d love to read!)
Don’t post other people without their consent
My social media sometimes makes me look like Gemma-no-mates – which isn’t (thankfully) the real picture. If I post a photo of a tree, it may be the tree next to the restaurant at which I’m eating dinner with friends, or that bookshelf might be in the home of a busy birthday party. I’m uncomfortable sharing pictures of friends who aren’t also public on social media – and even then, I’m not entitled to sharing their lives on mine – so I make sure I have permission if and when I do post photos of people.
This is also to keep myself safe. I may be at an event with a friend who is tweeting about it – but I might not want the world to know I am there, so checking with people before posting about them is always a great call.
Final point on this – it’s also a way of making sure you keep your best bits offline. I wrote about this on Wednesday: don’t forget that real life is so much more enjoyable than Instagram could ever be. Keep the best bits sacred…and maybe even secret.
PS: there is probably a lot to say on this point regarding children. I am not a parent, so I can’t comment about what I do. However, having worked with children in lots of contexts and written my dissertation on their relationship with various media, I would suggest limited exposure in public profiles is best – for present and future them.
Don’t post more than what you’re comfortable with
We talk a lot about ownership issues when we talk about social media – who owns our content, how to ‘own’ our platforms, etc… But the most important type of ownership in this conversation, I think, is YOURS. You are in charge of your life. You decide what to post and how to post it. You decide how much to share. Don’t let what other people do affect that. You don’t owe anyone anything. You own your life.
In this uber-technological, over-sharing age, we can sometimes feel like people are entitled to us and our lives (especially if we are in the public square) but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, tell us stories – but only tell us the stories you want to tell us, and tell them in your own way.
Privacy is about more than safety.
I have also found this to be true when blogging. I decide on my “sharing limits” become starting a post/series and stick to them.
There we go: my tips for staying safe online. I know it’s not a comfortable topic, because it means acknowledging that there are people, both online and offline, who are not safe. However, they are a minority, and social media can be enjoyable while also safe.