The Perks of Being Anti-Social Online

By Jack Rossi

Staying smart and savy in the digital age

As current Tulane students, I’m sure that for many of you the 2016 election cycle was your first voting experience, and what an experience it was. The 2016 election period was the most turbulent in recent memory, and with the changing face of social media and online connectivity it was the first to hold such an intense focus on the digital lives of the presidential candidates.

Social media played an integral part in shaping the voting population’s perceptions of the candidates. We’ve all heard about President Trump’s twitter feed, which to this day serves as an emotional rollercoaster. The #FeelTheBern movement incessantly stormed Instagram for months on end, and those familiar with the recently deceased entertainment app Vine may recall when presidential candidate Hillary Clinton dove headfirst into the meme limelight.

The advances in technology definitely helped to engage voters in the electoral process, yet the results were not always positive for the candidates. The 2016 electoral cycle served as a wonderful example of how catastrophic a breach in cyber security can be to the lives of those in the public eye. Since the Clinton email scandal grabbed the media’s attention in March of 2015, espionage and subterfuge have become focal points of domestic politics. Even now, President Trump and Kellyanne Conway’s surveillance accusations against the Obama administration have sparked public uproar.

If you’ve turned on the TV news or read the headlines of a newspaper at any point over the past year, you may have thought to yourself “Wow, another wild Donald Trump tweet” or “Is the United States becoming the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell's '1984' dystopia?”

We live in the digital age, where a vast majority of our personal data, such as medical records and banking information, can be accessed with ease from our personal electronic devices. Though convenient, the interconnectivity of such critical personal information can be seriously detrimental in the event that your laptop or smart-phone is stolen or compromised. I’ve heard one too many Boot stories of people drunkenly handing their phones over to that special someone under the context of receiving their phone numbers, only to wake up the next morning with no number and a -$30 Venmo payment to the same person.

As college students, it is important to realize that not many employers are too keen on hiring a candidate whose profile picture depicts them smoking a J and flipping off the camera.

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Without the right information (or common sense), protecting both your security and reputation online is like walking through a minefield. The following tips are good safeguards for anyone looking to protect themselves as fully as possible:

  1. A little common sense goes a long way on social media: Assume that everything you decide to post on social media is permanent. That sick photo you posted of you and your friends railing a few fat nose beers in the back of a school bus headed to formal may come back to bite you one day. You may try to delete it later, but you can't delete the shame.

  2. You're probably not using enough passwords: There are worse consequences of revealing your passwords than the resulting embarrassing Facebook statuses your friends will post on your behalf. Though using one password for all of your accounts is the most convenient option, the consequences could be devastating to your cyber security in the event of a compromise.

  3. Be aware of who you’re giving your personal information to: If you're taking a 'spirit animal' quiz online that requires you to enter the long number on the front of your credit card, the CVC number on the back, and your mother’s maiden name, it may not be entirely accurate. It is also worth mentioning that corporations have a nasty habit of selling consumer data to other corporations and political parties. If you’ve ever received an email or newsletter from an unprecedented source, you’re probably someone else’s sellout. If that makes you uncomfortable, it may be a good idea to opt out of any unnecessary retail memberships.

  4. If it isn't a legitimate legal workforce, medical, or governmental form, do not release your social security number: Duh. While the word 'social' is in it's name, there is a pretty good reason why it doesn't include a "share to Facebook" button.

  5. Research the true capabilities of your smart-device functions: Some of your device’s GPS, camera and cookie based services are active much more often that you would expect. Toy around with your privacy settings to find the level of corporate surveillance that you are comfortable living with, and think twice before purchasing that microwave with built in Go-Pro functionality that’s all the rage right now.