Locking Down Social Media
Using social media safely and comfortably is an ongoing challenge for many learners. In this lesson, we’ll go over some basic concepts and things to watch out for on social media websites and settings.
Gotchas and Problems You Might Hit
Different platforms: There are countless social media platforms out there, and your learners may use lots of them. If possible, try to survey your learners before the session or otherwise get a sense of what kinds of social media they use. Depending on what kind of information you can gather from your participants, give yourself a refresher on the security and privacy settings of major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you have time and think your audience will be interested in it, it also doesn’t hurt to review online dating networks like OKCupid, Tinder, and Bumble. This kind of general knowledge will help with unexpected questions and troubleshooting!
Sensitive information and identity: Sometimes, people are motivated to lock down their social media security after experiencing scary harassment, doxxing, or stalking, or after having watched a friend go through it. These stories can be hard to tell others, and going over these fears can put people into an anxious, worried place. Also keep in mind that social media, like any environment, can pose different risks depending on your gender, race, or sexuality. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ people bear the majority of online harassment. Some specific concerns to be mindful of include locational privacy, the risk of sharing a phone number, maintaining multiple accounts and identities, and online dating security and privacy.
The buddy system: Coming face-to-face with one’s online presence can be a scary undertaking. Many people very reasonably would rather not know what information of theirs is out there rather than the painful process of confronting it. If possible, encourage participants before the workshop to bring a trusted friend or family member with them. Learning that your phone number has been public this whole time, or finding a public photo you thought was private, can be intense experiences, and they can be less overwhelming with personal support nearby.
Anticipated Questions and Answers
When you ask learners to think about what they protect on social media, they can very quickly fall into “security paralysis” or “security nihilism.” A learner might say something like, “It’s impossible to lock everything down and I have no idea where to start. I can’t even think of what to do next.” or “What’s the point of even trying? Privacy settings will change, information will leak, and it’s all outside my control.”
One good response is to manage expectations. It’s impossible, whether in a phonebook world or a social media world, to lock down every single piece of information about us, and that’s okay. Lots of things are outside our control online, and that’s okay too. It’s not about bringing the amount of information about us online to zero; it’s about minimizing the most important information. The mission is to get the best idea possible of the information available about ourselves online, and then reduce it according to what we care about and are worried about. If we can minimize the public information that we have control over, then we are in a much more powerful position if and when settings change or we make a small slip.