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Get Street Smart on Social Media

August 25, 2016

According to, there are about 2 billion social media users worldwide, a group bigger than any city in the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn, Vine, Pinterest, and more—we can’t resist the urge to share. But think if you lived in a giant city, would you call your local news so they can announce that you’re on vacation? No, because that would be an invitation to burglars. Would you rent a billboard to tell everyone your address and birthdate? Of course not. So why would you do it in an online community that, like a city, is full of good people but also some bad ones?

Get Street Smart on Social Media

If you think of social media as a giant city and your account and home page as your house, it can help you decide what and what not to share with your neighbors. Here are some common sense tips:

  • Manage your privacy settings. In the physical world, you share different things with family and friends than you would with acquaintances or people you don’t know. To do the same on social media, use your privacy settings, and check them often because accounts can be reset or a site’s policies can change without notice. has some good video tutorials on privacy settings for different social media sites.
  • Be careful who you friend. You wouldn’t let just anyone who knocked on your door into your home. When you get a friend request, check out the person’s profile and see if they’re legit. And don’t just go by mutual friends because they may have been fooled, too. Bottom line: if you don’t know the person and you don’t have a really good reason to friend them, just say no.
  • Be careful what you share. Just like embarrassing family stories, things you post on social media can come back to haunt you. Even on auto-deleting sites like SnapChat and Instagram Bolt, people can take pictures or screen shots of the content you share, and no social media site can absolutely guarantee that old content is 100 percent destroyed. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother or your boss to see it, or if you wouldn’t hand it over to a thief or con artist, don’t post it on social media.
  • Be careful what you click. Friends may share funny surveys and other links without realizing that they are bait to download malicious software. If you do click on a link and it asks for personal information, stop and leave that site.
  • DUWOP! No, this is not a musical interlude. DUWOP stands for “Don’t upload without permission.” Pictures can cause embarrassment in unexpected ways. (For example, your nephew applying for a new job doesn’t want his potential boss to see him tipsy at your sister’s wedding.) So don’t post photos or video of people without their permission, and ask others to do the same for you.

People in big cities live safely by respecting their neighbors and being street smart. On social media, the worldwide city in the clouds, you need to do the same.