By Patrick Bailey
Honesty is the best policy, both in social media and in real life. There is real power in being honest about difficult topics in public settings. It is cathartic for the one sharing and quite often deeply inspirational for some members of the audience. Sunshine is a good disinfectant, as they say, and getting things out in the open is a fantastic way to look at them squarely and figure out the best way to fix them.
Almost anyone who has been through the process of alcohol and drug rehab will say that part of their healing process was to be honest and tell the truth about where they were and where they had been. However, sharing such information online can have serious negative side effects.
Personal disclosures can affect not only the person sharing but their family, friends, and community. While it’s okay to talk about personal issues on social media, people must do it with a modicum of caution. There is an art and a science to protecting one's identity while writing about sensitive subjects such as one’s health, personal fitness, psychological status, and medical history.
Protection from Bots, Scams, and Spam
There are a lot of automated systems out there that troll the web and social media, looking for the easiest possible entry points to insert junk advertisements and spam. They paste endless comments on blog posts, skim social media platforms for keywords, and generally behave as the lowest form of internet life.
Other than continual housekeeping and cleaning of comment threads, the best thing to do with this manner of intrusion is to be aware of it. Do not post Social Security numbers or highly personal information under any circumstances. Think hard before posting pictures of children and loved ones.
Avoid internet quizzes and other apps that ask you personal questions that might be used as security questions on valid websites. An app that asks you about your favorite childhood pet and the name of your elementary school, for example, should be avoided.
Also, try to stay away from health and exercise apps from less-than-trusted sources, as there is no way to know what information they are logging or who they are selling it to. Sometimes even highly respected providers lose information to hackers.
Protecting from Stalkers and Doxxers
A far more serious threat, though far less common, arises from those who wish to do harm or cause discomfort to you personally. Although these people may not know you personally, that does not mean that their attention is not personal.
Remember that a lot of the worst people in the world look for others who are having a hard time, because they feel that it will be easier to take advantage of these people. Once you have caught the personal attention of a stalker or a doxxer (someone who publishes the personal information of others), they will be able to use your information from social media to create a disturbingly complete picture of your life.
To protect against this phenomenon, remember a few things. The first is that literally everything that you put on social media, no matter how well protected you think it is, will someday become public information. Never, ever post your Social Security number and try to reserve other valuable data, such as your home address, to yourself.
Protecting One's Identity As a Celebrity, Media Target, or Whistleblower
Keeping one's identity safe and secure is incredibly difficult if one is in the news. People from all over the world with infinitely more computer expertise than you may want to access your high-profile information.
If you are a celebrity or in the news for positive reasons, try to enlist the assistance of paid professionals who can help you to guard your identity. If you are in the news for other reasons, you may have to shut everything down.
Those in the media spotlight often can’t share personal information without consequences. One might throw caution to the wind or one close down completely, but it is simply foolish to imagine that life can proceed as normal under such unusual circumstances. Those who have been involved in incidents that involve criminal charges or physical injuries to others are strongly advised to suspend their social media presence and avoid sharing any personal information whatsoever.
It is a shame that the internet has become as much an instrument of harm as it is of healing. It was never meant to be this way.
That said, the internet is best seen as a tool, and like any tool, it can turn on the user. Practice information safety and basic caution in order to shield yourself from the worst results, and then go out there and tell your truth. It’s a solid route to healing for you and for your audience.
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.
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