Change a few channels or scroll your social media feed a bit; sooner or later, you’ll encounter a tip on surviving a shark or hyena attack. More likely than not, this is a risk you’ll never encounter in your life, yet not much thought is given to teaching you how to stay safe online, which you could use daily.
The lazy answer would be just to go offline; however, you can’t just take yourself out of this equation. By the merit of living in the 21st century, there’s a limit to how “offline” you can be even with your best effort. With that in mind and to stay safe by the end of the year and in the next one, here are some online safety tips.
Online Safety and Etiquette Tips for 2024
- Be very careful what you post online
Everything you post online stays online. If, by any chance, tomorrow you become a prominent figure or get yourself an enemy, they won’t be too lazy to go a decade back and dig out a tweet you wrote when you were but an edgy, cringy teenager.
You never thought to delete these posts, mostly because you forgot they existed. However, even if you do delete them, chances are that someone out there has a screenshot. This is incredibly problematic, and some of these people online are so vindictive that they won’t shy away from sending these posts to their friends and employers. If you’re particularly unlucky, some of these posts will go viral.
The bottom line is that you must be extra careful about your online posts. You have the right to your share of crazy thoughts; just be sure to share them with your friends and family privately. It’s not like the world will end if everyone doesn’t learn of your wildest, most unhinged beliefs.
- DMs are not safe, either
Be honest; if you follow YouTube, Reddit, or Twitter dramas, you encounter DM screenshots regularly. This can be a problem since people tend to be more candid and open in their DMs, usually sharing thoughts they wouldn’t bring into the world.
Sure, you trust your friends completely, but what if you have a major argument or a fallout? What if things turn especially nasty? Just remember that Obi-Wan and Darth Vader were once closer than brothers. Things often take an unexpected turn.
It’s not even necessary for people who are in the chat to leak these conversations. What if an account takeover happens to you? What if it happens to one of the other people in the conversation?
This may sound a bit paranoid, but it’s better to do it in person when discussing a touchy topic. If not, the majority of platforms have some sort of vanishing mode. This way, messages disappear, and you get a notification if someone takes a screenshot.
- Check things before sharing them
Misinformation is everywhere. Last year, when the war in Ukraine broke out, everyone had exclusive footage. Then, little by little, it turned out that all the first-day footage was taken somewhere else. It was either from Syria and Lybia or something taken from the pre-2022 Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Either way, almost none of it was authentic or what people claimed it was.
Whenever you see something, do your research before sharing. It usually takes just a few minutes to see if this is real news or propaganda. Abide by this principle in everything, especially when the “study” or “news” you see seems shocking and hard to believe. If things are too wild to be true, this is sometimes because they are. We’re not claiming that reality can’t be weird and twisted as well; it’s just worth checking out.
Lastly, you have a lot of fake tweet makers out there. This means that you can make a fake tweet that looks as if it’s authentic. Once again, it doesn’t take that much effort to verify.
- Stay safe online
Previously, we’ve mentioned the danger of an account takeover. You must find a way to stay as safe online as possible. For starters, you need to keep your devices safe—all your devices. Most antivirus platforms have free plans, which means there’s no excuse to remain vulnerable on this front.
Second, you want to start using a password manager. The strongest password is always random, but how can you memorize a random password? Now, keep in mind that you need to have separate passwords for each platform and that you have to change them every 60-90 days for optimal security. It’s far easier to do this when you’re using software. It’s also near-impossible to do it manually.
Lastly, you should use a VPN to hide your IP address. The last thing you want is to get swatted or undergo another form of real-world harassment. Moreover, a VPN provides you with an extra layer of encoding. This will give you an additional cybersecurity boost that you so desperately need in 2024.
- Respect people online
The truth is that you don’t know people online, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t hurt their feelings. As Mark Twain once said: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Being rude and being polite are not your only two options; you always have the option to say nothing at all.
The conversation surrounding pronouns can get heated quickly. The thing is that it doesn’t cost you too much not to be rude. You don’t have to use a person’s pronoun of choice if you don’t want to. You can always address them by their name. Dale Carnegie even claims that this is one of the ways to come into people’s good graces more easily.
Most importantly, you don’t have to address them at all. People online don’t exist when you log off, which is a practice that you should use a bit more often. Go outside and touch grass, since the last thing you want to do is become terminally online. Speaking of which…
- Take a break
You owe it to yourself to take a break from the internet. Once you do, you’ll realize that most problems, like the vaccine discussions, the matrix, and the majority of conspiracies to destroy modern society, don’t exist offline.
The digital world has allowed people to argue and blow everything out of proportion without fearing repercussions. They make avatars, and even when they argue under their name, they do so in the safety of their own home. This makes them extra argumentative, rude, and obnoxious.
Needless to say, this is quite anxiety-inducing and is the form of behavior you want to try your best to avoid.
- Don’t share real-world info
Sharing real-world info is more dangerous than you think. You have no idea who lurks out there, willing and ready to harm you. First of all, you must understand that there are some insane people out there, and it doesn’t take that much effort for them to harm you in the real world.
Swatting is just one example where they don’t have to leave their home to ruin their day (in some cases, even life since swatting was known to have fatal outcomes in the past).
Sure, you want to upload a story of you jogging with your dog, but by doing so, you’re exposing your jogging route to potentially dangerous individuals in your area. The same thing goes for posting about the school that your child goes to, etc. You never know who’s lurking in the shadows, and sometimes, it’s best that you don’t find out.
These seven tips should preserve both your safety and your sanity
We’re spending more time online than we would like to admit, which also affects the real world. Online arguments don’t just stay offline. Some transfer into the real world, while others just make you more anxious, and it reflects on your real-world relations. Don’t let it come to this!