Tech Talk: On social media, share as much or as little as you like

Social media is a way of life these days. PHOTO: Beach Metro News file

Although a majority of people are now on social media of some sort or another, many still prefer to keep their distance. I hear several logical reasons for avoiding signing up from my clients including “I have a life” and “I don’t trust those sites”. Although these assessments are probably more accurate than most of us would like to think, I want to reach out to those who are skeptical but curious and give them some more confidence in using social media.

At the very least, a social networking site like Facebook is a great place to keep in touch with family and friends. However, there are no set rules as to how much time you need to commit or how much you need to share on your profile.

First of all, you aren’t required to provide your real name or even post a photo of yourself. Your entire profile can be set to be private and how much you decide to share with your friends/connections is entirely up to you. I think some people feel that once they sign up, they have to share as much as possible and participate every day. But it’s important to understand that how you interact with Facebook or similar social media sites is entirely up to you.

Of course, Facebook will try to get you engaged as much as possible, asking you to share more and more. It’s in their best interest to do so to maximize profits, but you need not answer their call. You can create your own customized level of participation, and still get plenty of great value.

For those who are unsure about signing up on Facebook, or aren’t sure if their security settings are optimal, here are a few steps to help you be more confident. Make sure to have Facebook.com open before going through these instructions.

  1. After signing up for a Facebook account or signing into your current Facebook account, open your settings. On a computer, these can be found in the top right corner of the page as a very small black triangle pointing downwards. Click on the triangle, then click settings. On a phone or tablet, tap the three lines at the top right and then scroll down to “Account Settings”.
  2. Navigate to “Privacy” on the left side. You’ll want to set most of these settings to “Friends” except for “Who can send you friend requests” which is OK to leave on “Everyone”. That way, friends and family you haven’t connected with yet can ask to join your network.
  3. By default, Facebook will send endless emails to notify you about everything happening on your friends’ accounts. Some people like to receive these emails, but if you’d rather not, it’s easy to turn them off. While still in the Settings menu, choose the “Notifications” heading and set email to “Account Related Notifications”. In general, all of the important happenings you need to know about will show up as a little red number over the globe at the top right of the page. If someone posts something to your wall, likes one of your posts, or replies to a comment, you will be notified there.

Many of my clients are very skeptical about sharing things online and I don’t blame them. It seems like every few months or so we hear about a database getting hacked and leaked. If this concerns you, but you don’t want to miss out on pictures, posts, and events created by family and friends, I recommend sharing as much as you would be comfortable with being leaked to the world.

Again, there are no rules about how much you are required to share or participate, and you can easily view posts from people you know without posting yourself. Take it at your own pace and see if it’s for you. Social networking is a great way to connect with friends, plan events, and keep up-to-date with what’s going on around town and in the world. It can be fun and/or informative and is worth giving it a shot if you feel you’re missing out.


Alex Webster offers computer coaching and support for the Beaches and Toronto East. Connect with him at www.thecomputercoach.ca or 416-550-7873.

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