To avoid the pitfalls of using social media, try following these five tips.
1. Social media is more social than you think.
- Consider the image of you that your posts create. What would a scholarship awards committee or prospective employer think of you? Remove tags or inappropriate pictures of yourself. According to Education Advisory Board, 94% of employers use social media in candidate recruitment, and 43% of employers who used social media did not hire a person based on finding negative content.
- Don't expect privacy online. Content can be shared by people who have access to your information, photos and posts. Private groups may not be as private as you think. Even when you try your best to keep photos, tweets, comments, videos, etc. between you and your friends, other people can—and will—find them.
2. Make it hard for people to steal your info.
- Create complex passwords (using numbers, symbols, and capital letters), and make sure that they are unrelated to any of the information you have posted (e.g., your birthday).
- Adjust your privacy settings on social media to allow only people you know or want to share information with to view your content.
- Consider posting only information that is already available in the public domain when you create your personal profile. And post general information (like your birthday without the year) rather than specific details (like your phone number or residence hall room number).
- Lying is a whole lot easier online. Beware of accounts posing as people they are not.
3. Your behavior online can define you.
- Don’t troll. Don’t lose an opportunity because of how you’ve portrayed yourself and others – and beware of the legal ramifications of harassing/defaming people online. Really, it’s just a good rule to be as kind to people as you would be in real life because, in the end, the Internet is part of real life.
- Your online activities have the potential to affect people online in your physical communities. Whenever possible, address conflict in a respectful way, directly with that individual.
- Be aware of copyright restrictions on the content you share via social media, blogs, and your personal websites. When using third party content like images and songs, remember to have either permission from the copyright holder, or your use must fall within one of the exceptions under copyright law, such as fair use. You should always give proper credit when using third party content.
- You don’t need to stand for negative behavior. You have the option to block or unfriend users who are creating a negative environment for you and others.
4. Once it’s on the Internet, it’s always going to be.
- Anything you upload or post to the web will forever be there in some form or another. There are sites that allow users to see and navigate what any given site looked like at points in the past. So, think twice before posting.
5. Keep your location on the DL.
- If you’re out with a friend or on vacation, why not wait until you’re home to post about it? Geo-location tools on social media will announce that you are out at a certain spot, leaving home for vacation, staying home alone, etc. – which can make you more vulnerable to theft or worse. Keep yourself and your stuff safe.