The internet, also known as cyberspace, is a realm that is constantly evolving and will continue to do so. It is a malleable, theoretically, unlimited space that is constantly being tuned, updated, changed, and overloaded with new digital advancements. More importantly, because of the fact that society has come to rely on the internet as much as we rely on electricity -this factor is naturally changing the way we deal with life. Ultimately, our relationship with the internet is changing our own selves in the process. The internet is like a mirror of humanity, reflecting our wishes and impulses as social beings to communicate and connect with others all the time, and so it grows with us.
Nowadays in the twenty-first century, the internet has become another beast entirely. This is especially true for younger generations that spend considerable time staring typing away at their smartphones and constantly taking photos. These generations are giving away sensitive information (as well as meta information) on social media on a daily basis. There are dozens of social media platforms and communities out there now, garnering billions of active users who chat, share, upload, and stream a wide range of content. Since there is a large amount of risk associated with dealing with the internet uninformed and unprotected, we will delve into tips regarding why you need to be cautious as a young social media user, and the required cybersecurity tools you need to stay safe and knowledgeable while on social media.
The internet revolution was referred to as Web 2.0 in the previous decade, “Web 2.0, a term devised to differentiate the post-dotcom bubble World Wide Web with its emphasis on social networking, the content generated by users. And cloud computing from that which came before. The 2.0 appellation is used in analogy with common computer software naming conventions to indicate a new, improved version”. This new version we have now really taken form with the advent of social media and smartphones right after the birth of social media in the mid-2000s. No one really expected the internet to become, essentially, an extension of both our minds and bodies (although intellectuals and famous psychiatrists did hint at the possibility of a technological takeover more than half a century ago).
So, when was this revolutionary transformation of cyberspace exactly? When it comes to social media, the key part is to mention the four founding father platforms which are Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram. They were all launched between 2005 and 2010, respectively, and are the building blocks of all social media communications to this day more than a decade later. Social media, as a virtual non-physical commodity is not enough on its own though. Without the huge popularity of the smartphone, that also came around in the mid 2000s (the iPhone, to name the central figure) the enormous social media world could not have been possible. On top of that, the majority of social media users today are on-the-go and mobile.
Let’s think about some staggering statistics. Approximately 4.66 billion people are now online on the internet. Hundreds of millions of people join social media every year and more than half of the world now uses it. The majority of these numbers are, of course, the younger demographic. This is especially true when it comes to the number of hours spent on social media, every day. Young generations spend more time on social media than they do on any other platform, even time spent with their own families in the real world pales in comparison.
So, yes, the internet is an incredible tool without which we could not socialize at such a grand and inventive scale. However, there are many caveats. With every big benefit, comes a big risk and this could not be more true for social media. There are several risks on social media, which can range from cyberbullying to cybercrime. These include big issues such as;
Social media is a dangerous and turbulent place for all demographics, but especially the younger demographic because they are the target customer for cybercriminals and cyberbullies. They are also the most active group, by far. Social media is at risk, which means social media accounts on everything from Facebook to Instagram are vulnerable to some sort of unauthorized breach or disruption. To put this into perspective, just the other day hundreds of millions of Facebook accounts were hacked and publicly exposed on Amazon’s cloud computing platform. This goes even further than just social media, though, as high-level hacks have also in recent months breached the highest level of government, namely the SolarWinds hack. These are just a few concrete examples of how unsafe and unstable your data is on the internet today, that is if you don’t have the proper cybersecurity hygiene.
There are a host of adjustments that need to be made to both the social media user’s mindset and toolset for a safer online existence. This ranges from adjustments, to cybersecurity software, to better internet practices. Let’s cover some of these aspects;
When referring to social media settings, this means adjusting the privacy settings. More specifically, this is adjusting who can see content and what is being posted. It is good practice to limit social media users you do not know, as well as avoid communication with requesters and suspicious activity from unknown users.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN is cybersecurity software that can be downloaded to any device with an OS, or operating system (tablet, laptop, smartphone etc.) A VPN acts as a middleman between you, your ISP and the rest of the internet. This software cloaks and encrypts your entire internet connection, offering you anonymity and safety while browsing or conducting business online.
It is always good practice to have both an anti-malware and anti-virus installed on your device, which will protect you in real-time from malicious events such as email phishing, and malware so you don’t have to worry about these issues.
It is necessary to always have the following mindset whenever you browse the internet; never share, post or communicate any personal information that you absolutely don’t have to over social media, or in general. Do not open emails from unknown senders, and avoid downloading any software that you have not read a professional review about (especially any third-party software). Finally, research your social media platforms well and do not jump on the hype bandwagon without thoroughly checking out what you are getting into, first.