As a young student, you might find that your parents and all their friends are always asking you questions about technology. They want help setting up their new smartphone, tablet or even smart TV. And you do help them because you know a thing or two about technology, especially since you grew up with it. And you’re also often giving them advice on how to properly use a hashtag or tag someone in a post on social media.
All this may make you think you know more about social media than your well-meaning elders. But the truth is, you don’t. You may have all the mechanics of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat down. You may know how to share a post for maximum reach (thanks mostly to your marketing courses). But are your social media posts going to haunt you down the road? Do you fully understand social media etiquette? And are you sure you’re okay with a future potential employer seeing that pic you just posted of you downing multiple shots with the caption: “Exam tomorrow, who cares?!”.
So, if you’re suddenly wondering whether you really do have a proper grasp of social media, here are some points to think about.
Do you know what is public and what is private?
Okay, so let’s start with the easy one: Facebook. Is your profile as private as you think it is? Have you checked your privacy settings lately? You may think you’re updating your close friends and family on your life when really absolutely anybody can see. So, go ahead, right now, and check your privacy settings. That’s something you want to be sure of.
Secondly, Twitter. You may have a private Twitter account, but it’s actually a good idea to have a public one. One day, after graduation, a potential employer will google you and want to find something. But you don’t want them seeing a silly back-and-forth between you and your bestie. You want them to see you sharing insightful articles and maybe even posting a few funny comments or links. Keep the personal stuff private when on Twitter because you don’t want the whole world having access to information that they could use to steal your identity or simply embarrass you online.
Lastly, we’re moving on to Instagram. You most likely want your Instagram to be public so that everyone can see your foodie pics. But do you want the whole world to be able to access that mirror selfie you took before going out that one time after you’d had a bit too much to drink? No, no you don’t. Because even though you’re no longer a child, your parents don’t want to see that and neither do future employers. Try to keep your public Instagram pretty and artsy and then you can have a private Instagram for just you and your friends to post party pics with tequila shots and half-closed eyes.
Do you know who is on your friends list or who really follows your private account?
Remember that time you sent your least favourite lecturer a friend request as a dare? Or how about that time your mom guilted you into accepting your conservative aunt’s follow request? If you have 600 Facebook friends and 6000 Instagram followers on your private account, you’re not likely going to remember who exactly can see your posts. One day you might find your least favourite lecturer commenting on your status update about how boring you found their latest lecture. Always be sure of who can see what and don’t feel bad culling them from your friends list. If you don’t want people to see what you post, make sure they don’t have the ability to see it. You can even stop people you are friends with from seeing a certain post.
Do you know where the posts you share are coming from?
This is an important one. You may see a meme in your timeline that you find hilarious, so naturally, you share it. But what you don’t know is that it comes from an offensive group or page that promotes hate speech. If you see a post you want to share but haven’t heard of the page or group that shared it, check them out just to be sure. You don’t want people thinking you support something which stands against everything you believe.
Are you checking the source?
If you’re going to share an article about something, check where it comes from. Especially if it’s about a big event or celebrity’s death. There are loads of hoax articles constantly making their way around social media. You’ve heard of fake news, right? Well, it’s up to you to make sure it stops being spread. Start by checking the source. Is it a reputable news publication or website. Double check the URL as it may look like CNN when really it’s CNNN. You don’t want someone commenting that the article you just shared is both fake and harmful.

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