Before You Click!
May 2, 2021
I recently had to take a two hour cyber security class for work. Much of the class centered on being careful with emails and attachments. Major corporations know that one wrong click can take their whole computer system down. For the individual on your home computer, a similar mistake can cause instant damage to your files, or set in motion computer actions that can range from annoying to devastating.
I believe the same principles apply to social media posts. When we click, comment, and/or share, do we really know what we are doing? Below are my thoughts.
Some social media posts tell me instantly to stop, block and delete. Here is an example:
I broke my own rules on this. My comment, though, was not a pet's name. My comment was "password." A friend posted "hack."
The post seems harmless enough. At the top, the post shows it came from "Cat Butt Art." A Google search and a look at the Cat Butt Art Facebook page shows this seems to be a legitimate organization that donates part of their proceeds to pet charities. This post, however, is not an ad for the organization. If it were, Facebook would have marked it as "sponsored." "Sponsored" means the poster paid for the post.
Why would Cat Butt Art post this? My guess is to collect Facebook accounts for targeted marketing, without paying for an ad to do this search. It's a safe bet that people who have loved a pet are much more likely to think about buying pet-related items. Narrowing your ad campaign (targeted marketing) means you get more bang for you advertising dollar. Not revealing in the post that they are selling pet related products might be a bit deceiving, but that isn't the major problem I have with this post.
People use names of beloved pets for passwords and for "safety questions" to reset forgotten passwords.
I strongly recommend NEVER posting a comment on social media that can help identify you, especially if you don't personally know and trust the original poster. The more information a hacker has, the easier it is to identify you. Answering a question that involves revealing the year you were born adds a bit of information. Facebook can already provide the month and day of your birth. The same goes for posting information relating to where you live now, where you have lived in the past, and where you were born. Combined with your birth date, and some hints from other posts that might help them figure out a password, the hackers have an easier time opening your credit report.
The worst that can happen in a situation like this is identity theft. Minor, but more likely, consequences can be a new flood of ads on social media, being added to a "group" without your permission, or opening a flood of friend requests from people you don't know.
The posts below may be less dangerous, but I still advise proceeding with caution.
DECEPTION, DECEPTION, DECEPTION! Amanda Wingfield (no relation) in The Glass Menagerie.
Some posts use deception to get you to respond. Striving for Greater has a Facebook page. The page says "We're here to create engaging, uplifting and inspirational content that breaks through the clutter, building a community of sharing and igniting a movement in the real world that motivates people to celebrate and share the good all around them." How does a spelling challenge relate to these goals? How hard is it to answer the question? They are collecting names and accounts. The deception makes me suspicious. Are the posted goals really what the group is about? Why do you need to deceive people in order to inspire them?
Here's another one from Striving for Greater. Feeling inspired yet?
How inspirational is that?
And more deception. The Typical Mom is a recipe website. She's promoting her recipes. What does the process of solving a math problem have to do with food? (The ability to solve word problems, maybe, but that's a stretch.) She's collecting names, and keeping her Facebook site fresh.
This isn't exactly deception, but I can't help but wonder why so many radio stations are conducting polls like this on social media:
I DARE YOU!
Posts like this one bother me the most. I've been dared to share a post related to supporting police. I've been dared to share a post about people on government assistance. I've been dared to share posts about immigration. Yes, the left puts up posts praising liberal causes, but if any of them say "bet you won't share this" I haven't seen them yet. Daring someone to share a post with a political bent makes me think they are collecting names, and not just for targeted marketing. This is more along the lines of "who is with us" and "who is against us." The nature of these posts make me suspect the original poster is from overseas, hoping to sow discord.
I didn't share this post. And God didn't smite me yet. So I think I'm OK.
The posts below are probably safe. The image matches the organization. There is no deception about the intent of the post.
The post comes from a dog rescue organization. Your suggested caption for the image is not likely to help identify you in the future. You may get on the organization's ad list, or at least get an invitation to like their page. That's how marketing works. This, at least, is honest. For me, the fun of posting a funny answer is worth a few ads in my feed. And I don't mind ads from pet rescue companies.
Normally, I put posts that ask me to share into the suspicious category. But I always look to see where they are from. In this case, an anti-bullying post came from a suicide prevention group. It's probably safe. I don't respond to most requests like these, though. Some of them, like the one about mental health, can overwhelm a social media page. It's good, free advertising for what is probably a nonprofit organization, though. Follow your heart.
Blocking potentially harmful posts:
How can you stop or slow down the number of potentially harmful posts? On Facebook and Instagram, the key is in the three little dots in the top right corner of the post. Click on these dots, and scroll down for options. You can block the person who shared the post. If you don't want to block a friend, you may have the option of blocking the original poster. I have blocked Striving for Greater and The Typical Mom, and many others, from my feed. If your friend seems to do nothing but share dangerous posts all day, you can unfollow them. This means they still see your posts. You still see anything they tag you in. But you don't see everything they post any more. And they never know!