I still remember the time when I first learnt about the concept of Social Media. It was through Orkut (R.I.P.), the not so successful attempt of Google Inc. to enter into this market. Even though in the larger scheme of things it didn’t fare well but at the time it was the rage.
With time we got into the habit of measuring our ‘social self-worth’ by number of scraps, friends or testimonials we had. These inconsequential metrics became the primary criteria on which we evaluated our self-esteem, popularity and acceptance in a group of friends. Of course, it was just a phase and it passed as fast as it came but it left it’s mark on our psych. It mutilated our concept of self-worth, self-esteem, and other ‘selfs’ and presented us with an unrealistic perception of ourselves. But the damage it caused to us was still much less in comparison.
In comparison to what? In comparison to generations which have Social Media from day 0. I was 17 when I had my first interaction with Social Media. I had a sense of what the world was without it. It helped me keep myself in line with the reality. We can’t say the same about these new inhabitants. For them the reality is where Social Media is a major part of it and it plays an important role in framing their self-concept.
Imagine the world where self-worth is primarily measured in number of Likes, Shares, Re-Tweets, Upvotes etc. A decade ago, cameras were used to capture few precious moments but today cameras are primarily used to take pictures with the sole purpose of sharing them on Social Media.
As per the law in most jurisdictions, it is illegal for children below the age of 13 to have accounts on such websites. Even those between 13-18 years are required do so under the supervision of an adult. Answer me this, when was the last time you checked your kid’s internet activity?
More than 90% of the internet is inhabited by the underworld, fraudsters, drug dealers, smugglers, human traffickers, pedophiles etc. People who are waiting for you to put your information online so that they can benefit from it. People who have the means and knowledge to take over your digital identity should they find you of some interest. Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s the evidence. We might like to think that we are inconsequential to the cyber criminals but they are not after us, they seek information and our failure to practice due care will ensure that they’ll get it, sooner rather than later.
By no means am I trying to scare you away from using Social Media. It’s a great platform to stay connected in this dispersed world. But it’s always good to learn the rules before playing. Here are few things you can do to stay safe on these platforms:
- Avoid posting pictures of children on these platforms. If you have to, ensure that sharing settings are not set to public. If you have to share pictures with a limited set of people, use dedicated photo-sharing services like Google Picasa.
- Irrespective of the Social Media platform(s) you’re using, configure the privacy settings to be strict.
- Avoid posting derogatory or defaming information about others on such platforms. You can be prosecuted for it.
- Do not accept friend requests from unknown people or people you suspect could bring you harm.
- Always remember that Social Media in no way is the true representation of your self-worth. It’s good to get in touch with the reality every once in a while.
Uday Mittal is a cybersecurity professional with rich working experience working with various industries including telecom, publishing, consulting and finance. He holds internationally recognized certifications such as CRTP, OSCE, OSCP, CISSP, CISA, CISM, CRISC among others. He speaks on cybersecurity awareness, offensive security research etc. and has authored various articles on topics related to cyber security and software development for a leading magazine on open source software.