Would you be comfortable if your employer or your mother saw your post?
This is what you need to ask yourself before you upload that photo or statement to social media, or share other people’s posts.
“Any prospective employer will definitely google you before a possible interview, so think before you post,” warns Kathryn Astbury, marketing manager at The SpaceStation, the largest digital media saleshouse in SA.
“Privacy is, in fact, a thing of the past.”
More than 30% of the South African population, or 16 million people, use Facebook, according to media analyst Arthur Goldstuck’s research on social media and the internet.
The majority, or 14 million, of South Africans access Facebook through their smartphones.
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By August, about 8 million South Africans were regular Twitter users and more than 6 million had LinkedIn profiles. Instagram’s local consumers stood at nearly 4 million.
LinkedIn is a professional platform where people share corporate messages and information, and where potential employers and employees can contact one another.
“On this platform, you should post professional photos of yourself, as well as a detailed history of your achievements and experience,” says Astbury.
Pictures of your baby and your dog belong on Facebook.
“People tend to share more personal information on Facebook because only friends you’ve accepted can see your information. It therefore feels like a smaller, safer group than, for example, Twitter,” Astbury says.
However, she warns that people need to tighten up their privacy settings and remember that they have no control over how followers share and distribute their information.
Also, people do not necessarily want the whole world to know if someone has gone away, for example, and their house is standing empty – thoughtless posts can end up costing a lot.
Social-media law expert Emma Sadleir says that all laws in “real life” relating to defamation, privacy, data protection, harassment, dignity, hate speech and sexual offences also apply to internet life.
So think carefully before you upload a post or share one – the content that you share will also reflect positively or negatively on you. Also remember that a post does not necessarily disappear just because it’s
been deleted – your followers may have made screenshots of it.
Astbury says: “Conversations on Twitter are different from Facebook because you can only use a certain number of characters and the whole world can see what you’ve written.”
Astbury says people often rely on Twitter to keep up with the latest news and share it with others.
“For example, there are also lots of politics and political discussions among South African Twitter users.”
Fake news is therefore one of the issues Twitter users need to watch out for.
“Follow reputable news outlets and seasoned journalists if you want to avoid false news. Stop following people on social media who share fake news posts.”
Astbury believes consumers should act proactively and not click on false news.
“Don’t feed the fake news industry by clicking on these articles. It just grows the visibility of the article.”
Meanwhile, video is the fastest-growing format in the social-media environment.
“Businesses and big brands are especially starting to see the value of video, as studies show online consumers prefer visual content,” Astbury says. YouTube is the ideal platform to show people how to use a product, she said.
Goldstuck says 1.3 billion people worldwide are active YouTube users. The average YouTube channel in South Africa now has 250 000 subscribers, versus an average of only 36 000 last year.
In addition to personal use, social-media platforms are very important for businesses.
Astbury says that for any small business which doesn’t have resources to develop a website, they should consider setting up a Facebook page for free. That way they have an online presence.
However, use other platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest to market a business. Platforms regularly change their operations and make it harder and more expensive to reach a chosen market.
As far as personal use is concerned, it is important to realise that these platforms do not provide the same pleasure or value to everyone. “Social media makes our relationships more impersonal but there’s nothing wrong with being ‘old-fashioned’ in your communication,” Astbury says.
She says that people who are fiercely private can still share special moments with close friends and family.
“Create a WhatsApp group and send your children’s birthday photos to the family on that.”
*Check out facebook.com or google “privacy settings on Facebook” to learn how to better protect yourself
Five golden rules for social-media users
1. Privacy settings help, but that still does not mean you have full control of what happens to your information. Conversations on Facebook or Twitter are not private. Don’t think you can make controversial or illegal statements and get away
2. You will be known by the friends you keep, and the same applies in the digital world. Get rid of “friends” whose posts are embarrassing to you. Clean your “digital house” regularly. Look through your friends and remove those you can’t remember (or don’t know). Delete pictures that can convey the wrong image
3. Do not post or share information while you are emotional. Emotions like anger or sadness impair your judgement. Refrain from engaging in emotional debates on social media. Remain patient, friendly and professional, especially on platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
4. Before posting anything, remind yourself that it can spread across the world like a wildfire. Are you comfortable with that?
5. In real life, a less pleasant or sensitive remark can soon be forgotten. A bitter or sarcastic remark on a platform such as a community WhatsApp group is there for everyone to see, revisit and remember.
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