Safety is important, and safety in the virtual world is even more important. Most of us are trained to be guarded when it comes to a physical space, but we may tend to forget to keep up the guard when it comes to social media.
If we are walking on the road, and a stranger says 'hi, can I be your friend?', we'd call them a creep and walk away faster if possible. Would you say 'yeah sure, we're friends from now'? Would you open your phone and show them your pictures? Would you chat with them for hours on end without getting to know exactly who they are? If they followed your activities, would you be comfortable? Which of these factors, and how, do they change when it comes to being online?
It is absolutely true that the above cannot be exactly translated to internet activity. Yes, social media can be used to get a reach to strangers we absolutely won't be able to reach out to otherwise. But, I think it is highly important to do it consciously. A random friend request from a stranger, and people accept. Their feeds are filled with personal pictures, experiences and comments. Where you are putting up personal updates on your location, your images, your life- make sure you do it being fully aware of whom you share it with. Nobody has the right to tell you to share it privately if you want to go public, but it is your basic duty to do it consciously because with the freedom comes the responsibility we owe to ourselves.
How many of us do regular privacy checks? When was the last time you bothered to go through you privacy settings, review them, and update them? The clauses keep changing, and we often give permissions for things we don't even realize. As new features are added, some apps have a misleading trend similar to that of permission-granted- until-denied, where those small tick boxes are by default ticked on unless you voluntarily check off.
My dad recently showed me a tweet where there images of two people, and none of them were real people. It was generated by an AI. I couldn't believe it, and as much as our technology has developed, there is no point crying about a flip side- we just have to buck up.
You have two options: One, let it go, don't use. Two, use it responsibly and keep in mind your own safety. Cyber safety is an indispensable concept once you decide to be out there on the web. What you do, is yours and yours alone. When we think about it, it may be scary. But, all that we need to do is be conscious. That's all. I believe that a person who is not conscious about what they are doing is the most vulnerable, because when you know what you do there is always a sense of surety and preparedness, and things seldom go wrong.
There is always help when we need. But, awareness about it all is critical. In law, there is a popular maxim: ignorance of the law is no excuse. I think this is a maxim that can be extended to this concept. Ignorance of your privacy settings is no excuse.
All said, the internet is a wonderful place for those who are aware of things. It helps you connect and stay in touch with the near and dear ones who are in fact far, far away. It is a beautiful place to showcase and promote yourself. It is one of the best places to meet your match and caliber, and find people interested in the same things as you, transcending physical and cultural borders. It makes the world a smaller, well-knit global community. And, the virtual world is here to stay. Those who are up to date- great job! For those of us who are getting those slight doubts, shall we just go and review them again?
Stay aware, stay safe!