I have to admit, the last few weeks has consisted of a lot more time spent on
media than normal. Social distancing means that I can stay in my pajamas cuddling my dogs for most the day while doing my part to help keep my elderly and immunocompromised loved ones and community members safe, but oh how I miss human interaction.
Social media, even with its limitations, has helped to keep me more connected while I attempt to cook my hundredth Pinterest recipe and binge watch “Gilmore Girls” and “The Office” alone. We are living in crazy times where most of our human interaction happens through a screen in an effort to flatten the curve. Since we’re all spending a little extra time on social media these days, here are some important tips to help you safely use social networking:
Be aware of your privacy settings
Are your social media profiles set to public or private? Would you like your professor, potential employer, someone interested in a date, or a stranger to see what you post? If you wouldn’t like those people to know where you are or what you’re doing on a regular basis, now is a great time to change your settings! I once had a guy who was interested in me constantly checking my social media accounts to see if I was posting anything with my local library as my location (I’m a nerd and spent way too much time at the library). When he saw that I was at the library, he would show up. As soon as I figured out what was happening, I quickly turned my settings to private to keep myself safe and avoid awkward encounters. I also reevaluated whether I should be allowing social media to tag my locations when I post photos.
Be careful of what you post
You can learn a lot about a person from their social media accounts, and sometimes, whether it’s fair or not, this is where people form their first impressions of us. Social media is also a tool that college admissions offices and potential employers use to investigate applicants. Do your best to avoid posting pictures and videos that show you being involved in drinking, drugs, or other inappropriate behavior. Quarantine is a great time to go through old posts and delete whatever looks questionable. It’s also a great time to establish some new boundaries when it comes to posting.
Be careful of who you talk to
I once knew someone who fell for a spam email where the sender claimed to be an African man in need of money to start a business that would discover the cure to a disease. It probably seems ridiculous to give money to a stranger from Africa that you’ve never met, but it doesn’t seem too ridiculous to message a cute stranger with mutual friends. This could be the start of a sweet, innocent friendship, but it’s best to proceed with caution. Do some research into who’s messaging you. Ask your mutual friends about them and ask them how they may know you. Then, proceed with caution. Never share personal information with strangers, don’t send them money, and don’t agree to meet up with them alone. Know the signs of internet phishing and sex trafficking. Stop the conversation whenever you feel uncomfortable. Lastly, avoid sending sexual pictures or videos to people like this at all cost as this could lead to dangerous situations. This leads to my next tip for staying safe on social media.
Beware of sexting
Sexting is serious and could have serious consequences. It can also be illegal, especially if minors are involved. While I was in college, a private picture was air dropped to a whole class which led to much embarrassment and people being suspended. These pictures can end up being distributed (on accident or on purpose), and you don’t want this to cause you embarrassment, punishment, or missed opportunities now or in the future! On another note, you don’t need to send pictures to earn someone’s love, approval, emotional availability, or someone’s attention. Keep it safe and classy, and show the world that you’re an empowered person that doesn’t have to send pictures or videos to gain attention or approval!
This tip has to do with your protecting your mental health. Social media provides a creative way to express ourselves and share life updates, but don’t forget that you’re only seeing the highlight reels of someone’s life. It may seem as if everyone else has their lives together with witty captions and instainfluencer worthy photos. Everyone has bad days and social media is NOT a good depiction of real life. We don’t see the camera roll of photos that weren’t good enough to post. We don’t hear them sharing that they spent the day bored and lonely. And they’re not going to willingly post about the fight that they had with their significant other.
Put down the phone
Just like my previous point, this final tip is to help you stay emotionally, mentally, and physically safe and healthy. This is a tough one. Especially, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic forcing everyone into days upon days of solitude. This is important though. Disconnect from seeing how perfect Lisa looks during quarantine. Step away from seeing how productive Steve has been. Take a break from reading the scary statistics and news articles that are constantly circulating. I know social media allows us to have some connectedness with the people we can’t physically see, but don’t allow it to consume your life. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Write a letter. Plan a zoom meeting. Read a book or journal. Do something for yourself that doesn’t include social media. Connect with people outside of social media – even if you have to get creative. Prioritize self-care, friendship, and living life apart from social media.