6 tips for safe and productive Facebook use

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Facebook has become the most widely used social media platform today. And for those of us who have friends and family in other countries, it is a frequently used practical tool that connects us with our loved ones any minute of the day. With FB you can post updates about your life, share photos, videos, text, and even video chat with your family and friends through Messenger.

If you are a new Facebook user (or a veteran but may need a reminder), the following tips will help make your social media use safe, productive and pleasant not only for yourself, but for other users as well:

  1. Don’t overshare

    As a general rule, do not post every small detail of your life. This may come as a surprise to you, but not everyone is interested in what you had for breakfast today. Sharing every little thing can be annoying for others, plus posting too many inconsequential updates can flood your friends’ timelines. This can establish you as an attention-seeker, plus it can jeopardize your safety.

    Here are some information you should never post:

    • Personal details (full name, birthday, age, exact address, telephone number, bank account details, passwords or password clues)
    • Vacation plans
    • Newly bought things, especially expensive ones.
    • You and your children’s details and location or using geotagging and location marker apps.

    These kinds of data are the ingredients that can allow scammers to get your SIN, access your bank account or steal your identity. Meanwhile, addresses, vacation plans and photos of expensive things you own can be invitations for a house break-in, especially if you announce at which times you are out or will be away. Also, using tags and location marker apps compromise safety especially when you tag kids at their school, park or any place they frequent.

  2. Manage your security settings

    Do you know if your posts are seen only by your friends? Or by the general public? Maybe it’s time to check your security settings. To do this, click on the arrow on the top menu and choose settings. On this page, you will see a list of choices (on the left-hand side) that you can set. For each one, you can choose the level of exposure you want (e.g. who can see your posts and other information on your page, limit who can comment on your post, etc.) and other choices. You can even choose who sees your friend list or block certain people to limit possible stalkers. Remember, even if you have chosen general security settings you can still select sharing options per post (on mobile, select Edit Privacy; on desktop click on the globe icon after a post’s time stamp). Make it a habit to check your security settings once in a while to ensure that your information is secure.

    Another good habit to have on FB is changing your password periodically. This can help prevent account hacking and guard all your information on FB. Make your password hard to guess. Don’t use obvious clues that they can get from your posts. And always remember to log out after use, especially when using a public computer.

  3. Check your apps

    Did you know that apps linked to your Facebook account can collect and store information about you? Sometimes we don’t even know that we have subscribed to third-party apps. I discovered that there was a Kweez app on my account which I probably got from having taken the “Which Harry Potter character are you?” quiz three to four years ago. If you are spooked about having someone storing information about you, limit the apps on your account. Go to Settings and Apps. You will see a list of apps that you use. Click on the X next to the app if you want to delete it. The app will be unable to post on your timeline but they will still have your information stored. If you want to go the extra mile, request the developer to delete the information they have of you. If you want to do away with third-party apps altogether, you can go to SettingsAppsWebsites and Plug-ins and click Edit and Disable Platform. This will remove integration with third-party apps when you use FB. It will warn you though that you would not be able to log-in through FB and you may lose some information (Freaked out about Facebook? Here’s how to check your privacy settings, Money).

  4. Think before you post

    More than your security settings, the most secure habit on FB (or any other social media) is thinking once, twice or even thrice before you post. It can be so easy to post things that seem harmless at the time you post them without thinking that it could get you in trouble later.

    Here’s what I mean by bad posts:

    • Inflammatory posts and comments – This can be a personal post, a photo, meme or shared article that is sensitive or controversial. It can also be generally offensive to people or groups of people (e.g. swastika signs, promotion of abuse, sexually graphic photos). It can also be a comment on a post that uses harsh language or a statement that is deliberately mean to start online fights. Examples are name-calling or using swear words. Remember that Canada has a strict cyberbullying law. Verbally attacking someone on Facebook can get you fined or put you in jail.
    • Rantings about your employer or boss– Angry at your supervisor? Not happy about your work or your pay? Yes, you have to right to be heard if you have complaints about your workplace. However, Facebook is not the right venue for this. Even personal opinions that may not align with your company’s beliefs can land you in hot water. Read 14 Canadians who were fired for social media posts from Workopolis to see what kinds of posts employers frown upon.
    • Posting or sharing “iffy” material – sharing fake news, unsubstantiated claims (for example medical treatments), or hoaxes. It not only shows that you are not very discriminating, you can also contribute to causing harm or danger to other people. Read 5 quick tips for navigating the internet like a pro to learn how to spot fake news.
    • Posting photos of other people’s children – This is an unwritten Facebook rule of etiquette. Unless you have their parents’ consent, don’t post the photos of your friends’ or acquaintances’ kids. Help preserve the privacy of others, especially children.

    Remember, once you post something, it’s there forever. You can delete it but you have already made an electronic mark that can be retrieved and can be used against you. So before you post, ask yourself: If this post was seen by my (boss, grandma, mom/dad, principal, or any authority figure), what will he/she think? If the answer is: they won’t like it. Don’t post.

  5. Know more about Facebook features that can make your experience better

    Did you know that you can send money through Facebook Messenger? Learn about this and other lesser known FB features that can make your FB experience more productive:

    • Curate your newsfeed – the three dots after the person (or organization’s) name has a lot of options. Click on it to discover the ways to make your newsfeed more personalized.
    • Save posts for reading later – you can save posts that are interesting to you but need longer time to read. Again, this option can be found when you click the three dots on the upper right corner of the post.
    • Send money – there are actually various ways you can do this via Messenger. You can use paypal or an app (go to Settings – Payments settings to set this up). I’ve tried this via the RBC Canada app using an RBC account. Clients select a person from their Messenger friend list, transfer funds and send a message to the receiver. The message can be sent to the receiver’s Messenger inbox or email address. It will tell the receiver to log-in to the financial institution of their choice to deposit the funds (a link in the email will be provided).
    • Check who’s been snooping on you – Go to SettingsSecurity and Login. There you will see the second box titled Where you’re logged in. Click see more to check if there have been log-ins on devices that are unfamiliar to you (that’s your snoop). And if you forgot to log out after a session, you can take care of this on the same tab (Security and Login). You can do so remotely by clicking on the dots on the right corner and choose Log Out.
    • Download your FB data – if you want to check your activity or save your data (if you’ve decided to delete you FB account), you can download your FB data. Go to SettingsGeneral and click on Download copy of your Facebook data (last line in the middle of the page).
  6. Mind your time

    Facebooking can be addictive! A minute of browsing can turn into an all-nighter if you’re not careful. Balance is the key to responsible Facebook use. Enjoy posting and browsing online, but if it already gets in the way of doing your work, minding your responsibilities, or experiencing real life in general, then you know that you’re overdoing it. Consider timing yourself or scheduling a few minutes of social media time as a reward for finishing a task.

Sources: 24 hidden Facebook features only power users know, Evan Dashevsky PC Magazine; 10 things you should never post on social networks, Andy O’Donnell, Lifewire. Accessed January 7, 2018.

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