10 Quick Ways to Make Your Social Media Safer and Better in 2018

A decade in, social media has reached the point where maintenance and hygiene — not cool new tools ––are keys to protecting your identity and having fun. Yep, it’s gone mainstream; a lawnmower, not a jetpack. And if some maintenance tips seem obvious, so are flossing and changing your oil but plenty of people don’t. Take a minute. These small chores can make a big difference.

Change all your passwords. This doesn’t have to be a hassle. Your new passwords may be easier to remember than what you are currently using. You actually don’t want gobbledigook passwords that look like V5#.:0{./lk?. You want loooooong passwords that look like BaldMenDontPurchaseShampoo. Who says? The guy who wrote the book on passwords.

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Twitter two-step auth settings page.

Make sure you have two-step auth. “Who would want to hack me?” is the wrong thing to be thinking right now. It’s like locking your car. Just do it. It’s usually under Account with your password settings.

Check your Facebook privacy settings. Go to the little down arrow at the top of your Facebook page → Settings → Privacy. Make sure everything is cool. Then go to your page → About → Contact and Basic Info. There’s a bunch of stuff here you either want to hide altogether or restrict access to: Phone number, address, date of birth, email.

Check your kids’ or parents’ privacy settings. If your kids live at home, that’s your address that could be exposed. If your parents don’t really know what they’re doing on Facebook, you may have to bail them out of jam later, so go ahead and be pushy.

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Shed old apps from your accounts. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and your privacy is only as strong as your weakest app. You’ve probably accumulated a bunch of apps with access to your data without really paying attention. Go to the little down arrow at the top of your Facebook page → Settings → Apps. Delete the ones you don’t use. (I started with 92 and ended up with seven.) Here’s a shortcut if the deletion process is laborious. Click the Quick Help question mark button → Privacy checkup → Your app privacy On Twitter, go to your profile → Settings → Apps.

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Change two key LinkedIn settings. Make yourself anonymous when you are looking at someone else’s LinkedIn. (So your ex- or rival or the person you’re thinking about recruiting won’t know you’re stalking them.) And turn off notifications to your followers when you edit your profile. (Your boss might conclude you’re job-hunting. Why is that setting even there? Who would want to tell hundreds of people automatically that you updated your work history?) Go to Settings → Privacy and they are right there together.

Unfollow – don’t unfriend – annoying friends on Facebook. You can still be friends and never see their posts. Just go to their profile and change Following to unfollow.

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Restrict toxic friends from seeing your Facebook posts. You can remain friends and not let them see your posts. Just go to their profile and click the down arrow by Friends → Add to another list → Scroll down → Restricted.

Update your profile pic with current full-face photo. Of course you think your cryptic profile pic is cool: You’re the one behind it. In the era of fake news and paid trolls, it’s common courtesy to show people who you are. (If you have privacy fears related to being identified, that’s different.)

Build or subscribe to a Twitter list you will use. Twitter is a maddening onslaught of random information. They don’t call it a firehose for nothing. I built this Twitter list of people in the SF Bay Area that I look at every day to see what’s happening in my city. (More than 900 accounts are viewable on the list, and more than 200 people have subscribed to it.) There are all kinds of lists to help you DVR Twitter. For instance, here’s a Twitter list of NY Times journalists. Here’s more on Twitter lists.

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Follow me on Instagram. What? This is № 11 – a bonus. Besides, if you’re into cats, food, and SF skylines, you’re gonna love it. OK, seriously, start clicking on hashtags on Instagram to discover cool new accounts and like-minded people. Instagram is regrettably siloed compared to other social media; it won’t suggest people to you. You have to look via #weddings #cars #birds #surfing. It’s worth it!

Written by

Former WSJ reporter and syndicated columnist working in the blogosphere. Once sold books to Johnny Cash. My Medium post about that was praised by Paris Review.

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