Safety in the social age

being safe when it comes to public accounts and location sharing

While we settle into campus life the Ferris State tag is being flooded on social media with photos of campus activities it’s important to keep in mind the safety of ourselves and others. 

There are things to look out for on every form of social media, whether it be your digital footprint or your safety. I’ve never been anti-social media, and I will occasionally find myself doom scrolling on my following feed. However, I believe it is important to be aware of the dangers of social media, and what we should be looking out for every time we make a post or respond to a direct message.

The conversation about staying safe on social media is becoming a must-be-taught lesson through the Child Internet Protection Act according to the school district of Philadelphia in their article Internet Safety for Schools. Most of us have indeed had a conversation about internet safety at least once in our lives. I would like to take this conversation further and focus on social media safety during college life.

Now that most of us are legal adults we can post more of what we want to post on social media without our parents or other adults in our lives telling us we can’t post things like that. It can be easy to get carried away in the whole “I am an adult, and I can decide what’s best for me” attitude. But with all the social media horror stories accessible with a quick internet search it’s clear to see that sometimes the decisions we make on social media can be unsafe.

With all the different ways to share your location with strangers and friends on social media, you would think that with the click of a few buttons, all you have to do is stop sharing your location and you are safe from people being able to find out where you are and even who you’re with but that’s not the case.

Here are some ways to be smart about your location sharing on social media:

  • Turn your location-sharing services off completely.
  • Turn on your location sharing to people you know and trust in real life, not just to everyone who has you added. 
  • Be smart about tagging your location in posts. It’s smart to wait until after you’ve left the location to post something sharing where you’ve been. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings when you post something. Anything that could make you aware of your location such as a store name or street sign in the background of your photo is a photo that should be posted later, or one that should be cropped or retaken away from that particular background. Trust me on this one, I’ve had someone figure out what dorm hall and the floor I lived in last year just because I posted a photo of me in my dorm with my door trim color in the background. 

It’s very common for most users to keep their social media accounts public, in fact, according to Arooj Ahmed from Digital Animation World reported in a survey done by Viasat Savings half of the people that were surveyed have a public account as opposed to a private account. Public accounts can be fun, according to the State of Digital Publishing in Tina McCorkindale in her article Why do people crave “likes” on social media, most people feel a sense of accomplishment and or happiness the more that people follow them or interact with their account. In the age of social media influencers, it’s easy to think that public accounts are some sort of glamorous experience. However, having a public account means that anyone can view your profile and posts, They can also send your profile or posts to anyone they wish, which sometimes may not be the best idea. 

Here are some things to keep in mind if you have a public account or are thinking about making your account public:

  • Keep in mind the tips from location sharing, be aware that sharing your location in any shape or form with anyone online means that anyone can figure out where you’re at. 
  • It’s a smart idea to always keep your messages to friends only. So that way anyone else who is following you can either not send messages directly, or have their messages go straight to the requested messages inbox. 
  • Be careful who you choose to interact with, it could be anyone behind a screen. 
  • Be aware of what you’re posting. If it’s something you wouldn’t want your grandma or a future employer to see maybe it’s a good idea to keep it in the drafts. 
  • Be aware of others’ wishes and children’s safety. If someone wishes to not be shared with strangers, or if you have a young relative in your post it may be a good idea to keep that post to friends only. Just because you want to share your account with everyone doesn’t mean your friends and family want to do the same. 
  • Think through your captions. It’s not just about pictures, be aware that your captions should be something that you’d be proud to look back on. You’re digital footprint exists and nothing you post can be gone completely so keep that in mind. 

For me, internet safety comes down to thinking before you post or share things. It’s easy to have the mindset that something bad could never happen to you but you never know for sure. It’s just better that we decide to be safe before we make our next post.