Social Media Safety: How to Protect Yourself Online


This article is part of Social anxietya series exploring the impact of social media on our mental health.

At its best, social media is a place to share ideas, find like-minded people, and build community. It can be hugely valuable, but while there’s a lot of good on social media, just existing online can also expose anyone to criticism, hate – and even being targeted and doxxed. For marginalized people in particular, browsing social media can feel like a minesweeper. The hatred of narrow-minded people and people who want to target others for their differences can be anywhere, unfortunately, even among your followers.

“Marginalized people are most at risk of being ‘cancelled’ for our identities,” said Alex Jenny, LCSW, who calls himself The Drag Therapist. teen vogue. “Trans women of color, for example, often have to cultivate a social media presence to find community and access financial assistance to support our transitions, but that also opens us up to hating transphobic people.”

When someone openly discusses identities that we “other” (being Black, a person of color, disabled, queer or trans, for example), it can be dangerous. Those advocating for marginalized communities need to think more carefully about the information we make public. Like trans people, black people who use social media are often similarly scapegoated as being radical simply to exist and share their opinions online – and can be targeted.

Alexandria Onuoha, a 24-year-old black doctoral student, says that, like someone in the public eye doing community organizing work and calling for white supremacy, she is extremely careful about what she posts. “I don’t post identifying information about where I live or even my close friends on Twitter. I do on Instagram, but my Instagram doesn’t include my full name,” she says. I use Twitter and Instagram differently to keep myself safe, but also to allow me to be a person and live fully within my community. I’m careful what I post. However, I am not at all sorry for what I am saying because I believe in telling the truth about our history and where we are now in the United States when it comes to racial and gender inequality.

How can and should you follow this lead and prioritize your social media safety? We’ve talked to people about the top steps you can take to stay safe.

Never use your full name or share other sensitive information.

Your full name can reveal crucial information. If you’re over 18 and registered to vote, anyone who has this and an idea of ​​your location can simply Google your address. Even if you are under 18, your last name and other details about you still make this possible. For survivors of abuse or people who have experienced harassment, this is of particular concern.

If you have already shared this information, do not panic! Just be careful what other sensitive information you share. This may include, but is not limited to, your phone number, address, date of birth, or last name. You don’t have to assume everyone is out to get you, but take precautions. Nat, a 22-year-old spiritual healer with a large following on TikTok, was incredibly intentional about not sharing his last name. “As my platform continues to grow, I have taken more care about what information I feel comfortable posting. While I am blessed with a loving community that I believe would never intend to harm me, it always seems realistic to consider those circumstances,” she says.

Don’t share your location and make sure your address is never visible.

Although you shouldn’t be paranoid, prevention is better than cure. Like many people who develop online followings, I’ve had people show up where I was after posting about it. Now I only share where I have been after I left. The same thing happened to Jenny. “I try to be careful not to publicly post where I am in real time. When posting on [performing at] shows, I worry that someone will potentially find me there to harm them, but I try to remember that I am in a space where others would work to protect me in these cases, ”she says. “I would recommend making sure you’re not too explicit about your daily movements and whereabouts.”

Nat is also intentional and never shares their real-time location. Further, they explain that “Although my followers know that I have moved to New York, I have been careful not to share the specific borough yet and I don’t know if I will in the future.” Waiting a few hours to publicly post a photo or video of you in a specific location, or even not sharing your usual routines and where you’re going is best if you’re able to avoid it. This information can and should be restricted to people you trust and know have your safety at heart.

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