• Nolan Callahan

Why everyone should be cautious when using Social Media.

The importance of using social media with discretion.

Today, more than ever, people are relying on social media to connect with their friends, family, and groups they’d normally socialize with if it weren’t for COVID-19. If this is one of the main methods of communication for your friends and family, naturally you’d want to remain connected, even while being aware of the privacy implications of it.

Here’s the thing, I’m not going to preach that people stop using social media. However, what I am going to advocate is intelligent use of it.

Some of you may be wondering how you could use social media “more intelligently” than you already do. Allow me to explain.

For me, getting a personal account on a social media platform where I share pictures of myself, my family, my house, my friends, my coworkers, posting where I’m vacationing, geotagging where I take pictures, and venting my frustrations of the day, is an absolute no-go.

You may have noticed on my site that I have a couple social media accounts. It would be downright hypocritical to say nobody should use these services ever. I use it to connect with all of you and my listeners.

You may have noticed that I post on Reddit, which is quickly evolving into one of the biggest social media platforms on the planet, as well as Twitter. But notice that it’s about the podcast, when the next show will be, and commenting on tech or privacy related topics. Never overly personal.

If all the data these companies can get from me is that I hate their privacy policies and how people’s data is being monetized and sold to unknown “third party partners” then I could honestly care less.

Yes, I hate most companies that run social media platforms. You have my permission to sell that.

In addition to being vague about my personal life, when I connect to these services on my phone, I’m doing so on open source alternatives to the official apps, because those apps don’t siphon data from other areas of my phone and feed it to social media for them to categorize, package, and sell. They can’t detect what my other activities are, or what other apps on my phone are.

Some platforms are irredeemable and should, on general principle alone, not be used. These include Facebook and their associated services WhatsApp and Instagram. It’s unfortunate that these are two of the most popular and widely used social media platforms, but they, along with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have proven themselves untrustworthy and unworthy of attention. They spit in their users faces and don’t even have the courtesy to apologize for it.

So in short, the best way to protect yourself is to follow this simple formula:

  • Never post anything that you don’t want taken, condensed, and sold to a number of other companies.

  • Don’t ever post or send anything that you feel is too personal for a complete stranger to see and know about you.

  • Read the privacy policies as well as terms and conditions of the services you use. You’ll not only be surprised but you’ll have a good idea of what is personally acceptable to post versus what isn’t.

  • Utilize the open source alternatives to the official applications these companies push. They function the same or sometimes even better (without the bloat or advertisements). If the apps are unavailable on your mobile device (looking at you iPhone!) use the browser itself rather than the app. While being less convenient, it is monumentally more privacy respecting.

Taking these steps to bolster your privacy will not only protect your personal information (and sometimes that of your loved ones as well) but it’ll also keep your life from becoming a monetary asset, and minimize potential for leaks or hacking. Fortunately we haven’t had a massive social media leak yet.