“How to keep safe on Facebook?”. It has become an important question in today's digital world. Women and children are especially vulnerable groups and it is crucial to educate everyone about the rules of safety on Facebook.
Last week, newspapers reported that a 23 year old engineering graduate woman was raped by a person who invited her for a “date”. The woman had met the accused, Jitendra Biswal, on Facebook. Biswal is a director in a private educational institute. Soon enough Biswal and the woman exchanged their mobile numbers and last week Biswal had invited her to meet-up for a date. But this “date” turned into a horrendous experience for the woman. The incident happened in Bhuwaneshwar, India.
Cases of women meeting strangers on social networking websites (like Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and getting into trouble are on the rise. Every now and then we get to read a similar story as above. Online social networking, on one hand, has made it a lot easier to make new friends but at the same time these websites have become tools for anti-social elements to find their prey. Women and children are their main targets.
Here, I have put together a few tips which will help anyone, and especially women, to be safer on social networking websites.
- First and the most important tip is to connect only with people you already know in your “real” life. Facebook is essentially a tool to stay in touch with your friends and relatives. Better keep it that way. This will help you simplify your Facebook life and save you from unnecessary stress of handling scores of online friends.
- If you are using Facebook to make new friends, please make sure you carefully scan and understand the profiles of your would-be friends before accepting friend requests or sending friend requests.
- It is very important to check the year and month when a particular profile was created. To get this information, you should go to the person’s Timeline and keep scrolling down as more and more posts by that person will be shown to you. You do not need to go to the bottom of the Timeline; but this scanning of older posts will give you a number of insights about the person. It will also give you an idea about the age of that profile.
- Do not accept friend requests from people who are strangers and whose profiles are not old enough. People often quickly create fake profiles whose only intent is to catch a few unsuspecting victims. You should be able to identify such fake profiles.
- Do not accept friend requests from those who do not have a genuine-looking profile picture. Instead of real profile picture, if the person has posted photos of film stars, flowers, musicians, singers or anyone else or has not posted any photo at all; you should not accept such a friend request.
- Try to assess the person's nature and behavior by reading material s/he has posted on his/her Timeline. If there are obscene photos or status updates anywhere on the person's wall –it would be better to be extra careful about connecting with such a person.
- If it is available for you to view, without accepting friend request, you must go to the Photos section of person's profile. See what kind of photos are there.
- If the person has not posted any genuine looking family photos or photos with friends, better be cautious.
- Go to About section and see how much information has been made public. Find out where the person has studied and worked. See if this information sounds genuine.
- If marital status is “married”, you should pay attention whether the person has named the spouse. If yes, go and check spouse's profile as well.
- Also in About section, see if any people have been listed as family members. Check the profiles of people who are listed as family members.
- Now pay attention to the status updates made by the person. Language used tells a lot about the person. Look for the signs of maturity in thoughts and words in the messages posted by the person.
- If a person uses abusive language, or very casual language against women –you better think twice before accepting friend request from this person.
- You should also see if there are any common friends. If there are, you might want to ask a common friend about his/her opinion.
- Once you have accepted friend request of a stranger, you should go slow in developing a friendship or relationship. Take your time and keep judging the person.
- You should not share your address or phone number with a person whom you can not completely trust. A person might sound an absolute gem to you but if there are no pressing reasons, you better take your time before sharing address or phone number.
- If you want to, first share mobile phone number only (do not share your landline / fixed line telephone number because these numbers can give away your home/office address). Talk to the person over mobile phone and take your time in making an opinion. Applications like TrueCaller tell only which city the mobile number belongs to. It does not disclose your complete address.
- Do not send any such messages to your friends which could later be used to blackmail you. Remember, all your messages will remain in the history of your friend's Facebook inbox. Be careful about what you write.
- Never send any revealing photos of yours via Facebook chat, inbox, email or any other means. Once sent, you lose control on those photos. Your friend can save copies of such photos.
- Do not agree to meet a new friend until complete trust has been established. Even after that, you should first try to meet in a get-together, party or a similar function.
- If you have to meet alone, better meet in a public place.
- It’s not a bad idea to take another friend of yours along when going to see an online friend for the first time.
- While meeting the person, you should be watchful. In the above mentioned case, the guy met the girl in a mall where they had lunch together. Then the guy took the girl around in the city in his chauffeur driven car. On the way he picked up another male friend of his. In the car they consumed liquor and tried to molest the girl. In the end the car was driven out of the city and at a deserted place the guy, his friend and car’s driver took turn to rape the girl.
- If you are meeting an online friend who you only so far know through Internet, be careful about what you eat and drink during the meeting. Remain cautious about sedatives mixed in food or drinks.
- Beautiful as you are, you may get tempted to share your photos in all sorts of dresses and poses. Please be cautious and make sure that your photos are not publicly available. You can set the visibility limits of anything you post on Facebook. Set your photos to be visible only to your friends.
- Do not post your photos that show a lot of skin. How much is too much, however, depends on the society you live in.
- Do not post photos of yours in inebriated state. Photos of holding/drinking wine, smoking, using drugs etc. should also not be posted.
- Keep your contact details private in your profile info.
- Do not post your location, especially if you are away from home/office. This may not only attract thieves but could also attract molesters.
- Do not post info about your planned trip to some place (especially if it is a secluded place)
- Avoid posting photos of a vacation that you're enjoying somewhere away from your home. This could also reveal your location. Photos should better be posted upon your return from vacations.
Tips included in the above guide will be helpful in making your Facebook life much easier. Earlier I had written a similar post on children's safety on social networking websites. This might also be of interest to you.
Please collaborate and add any other useful tip by commenting on this article. I will update the article if I receive a good tip in this regard.