(First appeared in New Era 16 September 2015)
A few years ago my eldest daughter called me during a training session I held in the capital. At the time I was freelancing and training officials at a large OMA about how to use Facebook. When my daughter heard this she had to express incredulity and stated, “But how do you teach something which is so easy to use?” She was of course mistaking using the social media platform with managing the platform and the interaction you can have with the system when understanding how your followers or “likers” react to posts and photographs.
I of course had to protect my business model and had to explain to her the difference. In essence, posting comment, publishing pictures or commenting on posts is all easy to do and allows your friends to see where you are, when and with whom. However, you want to know more about the people seeing your posts entails a lot more work in the actual engine room of the programme. Thus I was training managers of information pages rather than the social usage of Facebook. She still thought it funny that people would pay me N$ 750.00 an hour to learn something she felt they could teach themselves.
Today most of us learn how to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube and find that we can “instinctively” find the information we need while sharing our innermost thoughts and ideas with ease.
This led me to think about how to protect me and my family from the evils of social media – and more specifically about the careless mistakes we all make when posting about our personal lives.
First things First: Never give out information that you would not want a stranger knowing. Typically you would not tell every stranger walking in your neighbourhood that you will be leaving your house unguarded for the next two weeks while you go on holiday. Even though we would not do this to strangers in real life, many of us are sharing on social media how our holiday is, how long before we go home, etc. without considering that we previously shared pictures of our home, or even our jewellery or precious objects on that same site. Many criminals are becoming aware of information you share and are using it to target you specifically.
Your children: Most of us allow our children to access the Internet through smartphones or home computers without much thought to what content they access. In studies carried out in 25 European countries it was found that around one-third of parents worry about what their children access as content online and this is more than the number of parents concerned about their children’s use of alcohol or drugs.
The following tips are useful when it comes to your Internet usage:
Always keep in mind that the Internet is permanent. Even though you might delete a picture or post does not mean somebody has not already saved a copy. Taking it off does not quite mean the same as deleting it forever.
Be very careful when accepting a new friend request. If someone in real life asked to be your friend out of the blue. Only accept friends you actually know in real life – it is too easy to make a fake profile and pretend to be someone you are not.
Be very cautious when clicking on a link. The most common trick these days is to tell you that a certain friend likes a video or specific page and tries to get you to also look. Remember that anything too good to be true often is.
Get to know your privacy setting an how to change them. Check regularly which information you want to share with whom. Especially if you play games in a social media site, make sure they cannot post to your wall. Your boss will not find it funny that you have just “cracked level 31” after playing Game B for the past two hours.
Lastly, turn off your GPS function on your smartphone. When you post a picture taken with this feature on, anyone can access the data part of the photo and will know your exact location and time at which a photo was taken.
Always use as much caution about the information you and your family share in real life as you do on the Internet.