Social Media and Privacy
Some key terms to look for throughout the chapter include:
Why do I need privacy settings?
Today, people of all ages have a wide variety of different social media platforms they can use. You would have a difficult time finding someone who ISN’T signed up for a network such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. Each of these sites is an excellent option for keeping in touch with friends and letting people know what you are up to. However, as fun as it is share and post, it is easy to fall victim to oversharing, which means to share too many life details in an effort to feel connected to other people on social media. Teens and young adults joining social media for the first time are especially susceptible to oversharing. Oversharing is what creates the primary need for enabling privacy settings, as it can create a window for things such as cyberbullying and privacy invasions to occur.
What privacy options do I have?
Luckily, many social media sites have made it incredibly simple for users to enable different privacy settings to protect their information. Here, we’ll review what privacy options the four sites above give you:
- Facebook: The most popular social media site gives four different options for privacy and controlling your audience: “Public” (anyone can view your profile), “Friends” (only friends can view your profile), “Custom” (allows you to customize what specifically other users can/cannot see), and “Only Me” (you are the only person who can view your profile). It should be noted certain things such as your name, gender, and profile photo amongst others are always viewable to any user.
- Twitter: The site Twitter has one primary option for privacy, which is setting your profile to a “private account”. This makes it so that only people who follow you can see anything you tweet. Other users have to request to follow you, and you can either approve or decline this request. Like Facebook, your profile photo and name will be visible to anyone who views your profile.
- Instagram: Similar to Twitter, Instagram allows you to set your account to private, and users have to request to follow you and view your content. Other users can also view your name and bio, but also are able to send you a photo or video in the “Message” tab regardless of if they follow you or not.
- Snapchat: Snapchat’s privacy settings are a little trickier, as it is a “less-traditional” form of social media. However, it does give you two primary options for privacy. The first controls who can send you snaps, which is set to either “Everyone” or “My Friends”. This is set to “My Friends” by default. The other option controls who can see your Story, and can be set to “Everyone”, “My Friends”, or “Custom”, in which you can create a custom list of people who can see your story. This setting is also set to “My Friends” by default.
Other sites such as Tumblr or LinkedIn also provide a number of different privacy options for users, with a little exploration of your site’s settings you will be sure to find a privacy setting that fits your needs.
Teens and social media usage
As the number of teens using social media continues to climb, so does the need for ensuring that you are being safe on the internet. According to a study conducted in 2012, the number of teens using social media increased nearly 10% just from 2011. Studies continue to show more telling results to this day. 91% of teens post a photo of themselves online, 71% post the name of the town or city they live in, and even 20% of teens post their phone number on social media. This is important information that is being posted online, and if you have low privacy settings, that nearly anyone can access at will. The risks associated with this will be elaborated on further in coming sections, but it is important to remember that NOTHING is ever truly deleted from the internet once it’s out there.
How do I know my privacy settings aren’t good enough?
This is a tricky question to answer, because only you can decide what you are and are not comfortable sharing online. Be wary of people attempting to add you on social media who, as far as you can tell, you do not share any mutual friends or followers with. In many cases, the best option is to set your privacy settings to “Friends Only” on Facebook, and your Instagram and Twitter accounts to “Private”. Explore other social media sites and explore what privacy and safety options they have, too. It is important to ensure that, if you are a person who posts and shares information a lot, that only the people you want to see your profile can see it. And always be careful to make sure the information you are sharing is not too personal or revealing about things like where you live, where you can be found, and how to contact you. You do not want to make it easier for the wrong people to access this information.
Be sure to take some time and go through your current privacy settings. This all really comes down to what you’re comfortable showing people and who you’re comfortable with seeing it. Any “friends only”-like setting is likely to be your best bet, but you can always look into custom settings if you have not found something to your liking. But perhaps most importantly, be sure to be careful of what you are sharing online. No matter what settings you have, you do not want to risk oversharing details about yourself and your personal life. Only share the information you need to share, and don’t give away too much about yourself. No amount of connectivity or online reputation is worth a privacy invasion of any capacity!