Being literate at one thing (or in general) is what sets apart those who simply immerse themselves and those who really understand the dangers and other possibilities. This goes the same with social media. With the advancement of technology, it is easier to get oneself drowned into the online world without getting to know the ins and outs of technology. That’s why this International Literacy Day, we want to focus on Social Media Literacy to help out netizens out there to be better social media users.
There are so many dangers in the social media world these days. One of the biggest issues we have is privacy. There’s always feeling that we are being watched and that our data will always be compromised. We can’t blame you for feeling that way, though. Through the years, there have been various data breaches especially on social media.
Another issue is on the spread of fake news. It is easy to replicate websites these days. Some of them can easily fool us for being real. And because of that, we fall prey into spreading them as if they’re real and legit news.
Social media bullying is another problem that seems to plague users online. We speak out our minds on issues but others just argue and dumbing you down by attacking you personally. It is never safe to converse or interact with people online.
These are just a few social media issues we’re facing right now. So, how do we make ourselves literate about these issues? How can we not fall victims with these predator-like problems?
To celebrate International Literacy Day, here are a few tips that might help you be more literate social media users.
Online and Data Privacy
Creating a single social media account is already compromising your privacy. Imagine how many personal information you give out to create an account. You give your complete name, your birthday, your contact information and many more. These may seem like harmless basic personal information, but if it’s in the wrong hands, your privacy and security might be at high risk.
When it comes to your personal data, you have to be very careful where you place them online. Ask yourself: is this information necessary to be here?
For example: your social media account. Sometimes, our middle names are not necessary. At times, these middle names can be used in other security questions and we’re already giving out the answer freely. Remember that some of your important financial documents ask for your mother’s maiden family name (which is your middle name). That information in the hands of an online scammer is already giving them free access to whatever important information you’re giving.
Other security questions include your favorite color, or your dog’s name, or the town or city you grew up in. Don’t you think you’ve already given this away? Check your Instagram posts. You might’ve posted a photo of you and your dog and even using his name as hashtag. Check your feed and see if your favorite color is prevailing there. And lastly, your Facebook profile might include the town or city your were born or grew up in.
The thing with social media and our information is that it’s easily given away. We mindlessly fill out forms and answer questions because we think it’s just for our profile. But if we piece together all these data, a web criminal’s mind would always find a way to use available information to work their way through your more private accounts.
If you don’t think it’s necessary don’t fill it out. Or if they require that information but you think you can get by and lie about it (especially if it’s just social media and other unnecessary apps), then provide a different information than what you would usually answer in your more secured, private accounts.
News: What’s Real and What’s Fake
The rise of social media has given opportunists an avenue to purvey fake news especially when it comes to profiteering and politics. This has been a fact for years now. If we look back on the state of politics around the world in 2016 and onwards, social media has been used far more in political campaigns more than any other. But why use social media?
It’s easy to share so it’s also easy to spread one lie coated as truth when people are easy to deceive. There have been lots of incidents where purveyors of fake news just simply copy the interface and design of a trusted news website. They do this so people would make believe that they’re getting accurate news stories when, in fact, it’s all fake.
How do we battle disinformation in such a deceiving technological environment?
First, know which is real. If you really have that one trusted source, know the real them. Check their official website. Follow their official pages by checking if they have the ‘verified’ badge. Know what is their real URL, how their pages look like, and who writes for them. You can also check the by-line of the article.
So when you come across a news whose URL is different from the real, best bet is that it’s fake.
The next thing you can do is cross check. If a certain news story seems fishy for you, Google it. Enter the keywords and hit search. You’ll find related articles in the results. How to know, then, that it’s false or fake? When there’s nothing on the search result that is like it. Most likely, you’ll find contrary articles related to it. Also, it helps if you read both sides and check the other websites as well. This helps you compare what a legit website looks like compared to something fake.
Lastly, one thing you can do is to seek help from fact-checking websites. There are online fact checkers whose jobs are to verify a news item. Yes, they do exist. This is to make sure that disinformation would be lessened in the online world. So if you’re in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult experts.
Don’t Be a Troll
The internet is already too toxic so please… please… don’t be a troll. What exactly is it?
An internet troll is someone who just suddenly picks fights in the internet. This is usually done on the comments section. Others argue with a point, while others just want to pick petty online fights. The topics that trolls jump is too varied.
Online trolls has become one of the pains in social media. They dumb down an intellectual argument by smart-shaming others, or giving an ad hominem arguments. This would suddenly result to a domino effect of just attacking one another losing the entire point of the discussion.
These trolls somehow makes the online sphere a dangerous place. Trolling someone especially if you attack them personally and directly can trigger mental and emotional distress to the person. Imagine engaging into an intellectual conversation then somebody suddenly targets your race and ethnicity or religion. These petty attacks could mean so much to someone who’s been marginalized by society. Thus, could trigger emotional distress.
Another thing that trolls affect is that they could increase disinformation. Those who debate with you with fake news can somehow purvey and spread that false belief of truth. If one troll can spread that much disinformation, it would be passed on to others who engage in the conversation. It’s like disinformation by so many folds, you could barely contain it.
So how do you not become an online troll?
For one, never attack someone personally. Always engage in a formal, respectful manner. But what if they attack first? Continue responding with respect and facts. You’ll see how it could eventually drain out the troll. If not, be the first to back down.
And as always, respond and argue with facts. There’s nothing better than sticking to the facts.
This International Literacy Day, let’s be more conscious with how we act online. Let’s also be more aware of the dangers that the online world could bring us. Continue to fight disinformation. Be conscious of your own data and privacy. Question if something seems fishy.
There’s no harm in trying to be sure. With a predatory online world, making sure that you’re safe is never a bad thing. If anything, that’s your best defense against it all.