Social media and social networking have become an integral part of our lives over the last few years. In fact, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Snapchat have become so widely used that it is uncommon to meet someone who doesn’t have a presence on at least one (if not all) of these networks.
We’ve grown so accustomed to posting text, pictures, and videos of our lives, and to checking in wherever we go on social media, that it’s easy to forget about some potentially serious dangers associated with these online tools. Let’s take a moment to consider a few of the most common social networking dangers that you could be exposing yourself to every day when you log on.
Advertising Your Location to Criminals
First of all, how often do you see friends check in to a destination on Facebook or Instagram? This might seem like a purely innocent practice that lets them keep their friends and followers up to date on what they’re doing, but it can actually be very dangerous.
For example, consider your friend who checks in at the airport when he goes on vacation and writes in his post, “Off to the mountains for a whole week!” He just told everyone who can see his post that he is away from home and that he won’t be back for an entire week. Thieves and home invaders look for opportunities like these, so instead of checking in and posting all of your pictures while you’re on vacation, why not wait a few days and post that stuff when you get back?
Likewise, if you regularly check in at the gym, the grocery store, your favorite park, and other areas, you’re basically creating a profile and a roadmap for stalkers and others who mean you harm. Don’t over-share your location information, and you’ll be much safer.
Using Social Media at Work
Of course, not all dangers are physical. Using social media on your work computer, unless it is a part of your job or you have specific permission to do so, can get you in a lot of trouble. Even if you don’t use company computers to do it, posting from your phone while you’re at work leaves evidence that you were not engaged with your job while you were on company time. That could get you in just as much trouble as posting from a work computer.
Posting Sensitive Information
Finally, you may be thinking, “But I’ve checked my privacy settings. I’m only friends with people I trust. Bad guys can’t see my check-ins, and I’m not friends with anyone from work on social media.” Be aware that your social media accounts may not be as secure as you think. Also, if you have second-degree connections (“friend of a friend”) with people from work, there is still a high likelihood that the wrong person could see a post you made about how much you hate your job or something else that you don’t want your boss to know about.
Likewise, you never want to post compromising or sensitive information of any kind on social media. Your home address, information about your job search, pictures of your kids’ school, and other posts like these could, at the very least, make your employer think twice about giving you a good review this year, or at worst, put you and your family in danger.
Be aware of how you use social media, and, when in doubt, don’t post anything that you think could potentially cause problems or put you in danger.