“Top 5 Social Media Tips”

Being a Gen Y-er and growing up with social media, this is something I’ve had plenty of experience in, both good and bad.

1. Privacy is really important.  Seriously.
This is one of those lessons I had to learn the hard way.  When MySpace and MSN were all the rage, nobody really cared about security.  It was all about talking to random people, collecting friends, sharing statuses.  I guess back then, privacy wasn’t really an option.  I mean, I’m sure there were basic features, but it wasn’t talked about or really known, and nobody did it.  It’s only relatively recently that companies such as Facebook have gotten people to seriously focus on it, myself included.  My social media settings are pretty much on maximum now – I only share things with people I’m friends with on Facebook and Instagram, people can’t message me on Facebook without being friends with me first, people can’t see any personal details about me without being my friend.
The trigger for all this started about six years ago, when I started to become really close to one of my now best friends.  He was going through stalker issues that at the time, I knew nothing about.  He was embarrassed and we’d only just gotten to really know each other so it just hadn’t come up.   I was contacted on both Facebook and YouTube by someone who was telling me awful things about my friend, stuff that I at first assumed to be true as I didn’t understand what was going on.  It really upset him I believed it, but in my defense, it was early days and I’d never had any sort of contact with stalkers before so I just didn’t really understand.  After that, I removed all my YouTube content and switched to super private mode on everything.  It’s not worth the risk or hassle to have it set any other way, and ultimately I’m not sharing things for my friend’s brother’s cousin’s wife to see, I’m sharing it for people I know.

2. Parents, perverts are real.  They’re out there.  Take it seriously.
Again, I know this from experience.  While kids use different platforms than I used to, I guarantee the same sickos still lurk there, waiting for your child to try to meet some new friends in cyberspace.  That’s why I started talking to people I didn’t know on MSN.  I don’t even remember where I met them (maybe they added me), but they seemed nice enough at first.  They’d let you talk about school and friend dramas and they always seemed relatable.  They’d talk to your for awhile, and you think “okay, this is fine”.  This one guy I spoke to didn’t even bother trying to hide the fact he was 30-something, which I suppose was lucky in one way – if he had of pretended to be my age, who knows what could have happened?  After awhile, he started asking more personal questions.  One I remember in particular was “what bra size are you?”.  Then suddenly, he’s sending naked pictures of himself.  Luckily, I was smart enough to delete and block him straight away.  I wasn’t out looking for this kind of thing, but it found me anyway.  Kids are online more than ever (a lot more than I was back then), and it’s so easy for pervs to contact them.  Most gadgets and social media have privacy controls.  Learn them, set them.  More than that, educate your kids.  You can change settings all you like but kids can always turn them off.  Don’t expect schools to monitor your children for you, don’t expect your kids to listen to their boring teacher when they try to teach cyber safety.  Sit them down and explain it to them so they’ll understand – you know your kids better than anyone else.  If you don’t understand technology, research it.  It might save your child’s life.  Also, don’t think “oh, they’re too young for me to tell them about the mean old world”.  I know I just said you know your kids better than anyone, and it’s true, however I firmly believe if they’re old enough for gadgets such as iPads, laptops and phones, they’re old enough to be told the dangers of it.  My friend is a grade one teacher (the kids are between 6 and 7 years old).  For the two years she’s been teaching that level, she’s had countless awkward situations where she’s caught the kids looking up porn, googling “girls kissing” and all sorts of other mindblowing stuff.  Your kids are curious.  They see it on TV, their friends talk about it.  If you don’t educate them, they could end up learning about the dangers the hard way.  I can’t stress this enough.

3. Don’t send game invites.  Nobody is going to start playing because you sent them.  You just piss everyone off.
I know this is one of the biggest annoyances on social media.  No, we don’t want play Candy Crush, we don’t want extra corn on FarmVille, we don’t want extra coins on Bingo Pop.  If we wanted to play, we’d do it without you spamming us.  Thankfully, there’s a way to turn off these annoying invites on Facebook, and anyone who has those annoying friends who don’t seem to get it should probably learn how – it’ll save your sanity.  And to those of you who do it, think before you press “invite to play”.  Sure, you might earn a small bonus for it, but you also lose the respect of all the people you spam.

4. If someone posts an offer that seems too good to be true, it is!
You’d think people would be able to spot a scam when they see one by now.  We aren’t in 1998 any more where everything is new and scary.  Sure, scams aren’t quite as obvious as the old “Prince of Nigeria” emails, but they aren’t challenging if you’re aware of them either.  I see countless people in my newsfeed posting things they shouldn’t be, spreading the scam further across cyberspace.  The easiest way to spot something dodgy is to look at the link – does the website look like it’s legit?  Most scams on social media these days pretend to be from major companies.  Do you really think Qantas would use abc.squizzers.com to give away “free tickets”?  Second thing to look for, is the spelling and grammar correct?  Almost always, the website is poorly written, have extremely bad grammar and often the spacing in weird too.  If American Express were to run a promotion, don’t you think they’d pay someone big bucks to make an impressive website and, I don’t know, use spell check?  Lastly, use your common sense.  Do you really think your local movie outlet is giving away free screenings “for the first 1000 people”?  That would put them out of business.  Do you really think your favourite airline is giving away “a trip anywhere in the world” if you share the link with all your friends?  Nothing is for free in this world, and that is especially true in cyberspace.  A lot of people have the mentality of “well, if it’s not real then I haven’t lost anything”.  Wrong.  Firstly, those scams ask for personal information.  At best, you’ll probably get heaps of junk email now flooding your inbox.  At worst, you could open your computer up for malware and wind up being hacked.  On top of that, if you’ve shared the link with people and they’ve been sucked in too, you’ve also dragged them down the same path.  If the link is even potentially dodgy, don’t click it!  If it’s from a big company, go to their official website.  If the offer isn’t listed there, it isn’t real.

5. Don’t post things you don’t want the whole world to see.
I know I harped on about privacy settings and educating your kids about cyber safety, and I’m not taking anything away from the importance of that.  You just need to be aware that anything you post has the potential to be saved, shared, copied and otherwise spread around, no matter how careful you are.  If you don’t want to risk that “cute” picture of your naked toddler winding up on some perverts computer harddrive, don’t post it.  If you don’t want your dick pics or boob snaps shared, don’t send them.  If you don’t want people knowing where you live, don’t check in there.  While privacy settings are generally pretty good, it doesn’t mean other people have the same settings or your best interests are heart.  It doesn’t take much for things to get leaked, and 99.9% of the time, it isn’t going to make you famous like Kim K.  It’s more likely to do a lot of psychological damage to you instead.  There was a big focus on sexting the media a little while ago, and victims were saying how their ex’s shared their naked pictures and sex tapes with everyone, and how it’s ruined their lives.  When asked why they thought it was a good idea in the first place, they went on and on about it being their choice and nobody has the right to tell them they can’t do it.  I’m not going to argue with that – if those people still have that mentality after all they’ve been through, then I say let them do it, but don’t be surprised if it happens again.  It doesn’t matter how in love with someone you are, and how amazing a person you think they they are, if things go south, they have some seriously damaging stuff.  It might seem like cheeky, harmless fun at the time but it can come back to haunt you.  Think about it before you share it.

That’s my top five tips.  What’s yours?

-JD

You can find this prompt, and many more, here

Harry Potter and the Muggle who Refused to Buy Into It (and Why She Regrets It)

So, Harry Potter has been famous for what feels like forever.  I remember vividly when I was first introduced to it, a few years prior to it becoming famous.  I was in primary school, maybe Grade 4.  We had one of those Book Fairs happening, and mum agreed to let me buy one book.  Do schools still do Book Fairs?  They should.  They were awesome.  Though I guess we didn’t have iPads back then, so maybe they aren’t cool any more.  Whatever, it was after school and I was in the library, looking at all the newly-erected temporary book stands filled with the latest children’s book titles.  One of the covers caught my eye, one with a blue flying car and two kids hanging out the window.  The librarian, Mrs Bourke, came over and said that she’d recommend the series, but that I was holding the second book and should probably start with the first.  In this case, I literally judged the book by it’s cover and decided against her suggestion, intrigued more by the flying car than the train.

I got home and started to read it.  Big surprise though, I couldn’t follow what was going on.  I tried multiple times over the next year to get into it, but would inevitably give up after the first few chapters.

The book sat on my shelf for two years.  Then – out of nowhere – everyone was talking about the series.  Literally overnight, it went from nobody talking about books to it being the latest thing.  I didn’t get it.  I couldn’t understand why everyone liked it.  I couldn’t get into it at all, and at that stage, I was an avid reader.  I’d demolish book after book.  It wasn’t like me to give up on them.  So I was really confused about the whole overnight phenomenon.

I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but within the next couple of months, I managed to get my hands on the first book that I’d turned my nose up at years before.  I started to read it, and suddenly everything made sense.  I read the first and second book within a couple of weeks.  I really liked it, and was glad I could finally enjoy the book that I’d attempted so many times.

It took awhile for me to get my hands on the third book as there was a giant waiting list at the library for it (it’s hard to believe that was even a thing, much less that it seemed perfectly normal at the time!).  I think I was at least halfway through grade 6 before I read it, and again, really liked it.  I remember that, even at that young age, I was perplexed that the hype for the series was still going strong.  I assumed (incorrectly) that it would fizzle out like most things did.  Every kid who enjoyed reading (which was a lot back then) was hanging out for the next installment.

The next book came out and by then, my sister had also gotten into the series so mum decided it was okay to buy it instead of waiting a ridiculously long time for a copy to free up at the library.  Despite being the longest book of the series (and the longest book I’d ever read at the time) I chewed through it.

As this book was coming out, so too was the movie.  The hype for the series grew exponentially, which seemed unfathomable as it was already so high as it was.  I didn’t see the film in the cinema, but my sister bought the VHS when it came out and I watched it there.  I was disappointed – I wasn’t used to seeing films based off books and I felt it was missing a lot.  I was young and couldn’t comprehend the reasons why they’d leave stuff out.

As the second film was about to come out a year or so later, the hype became overwhelming.  You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing posters or merchandise or people talking excitedly about it.  People on the TV and radio would talk about it, kids at school couldn’t stop guessing what it would be like.

That’s when I decided I’d had enough.

This was my very first taste of going against the crowd.  I was sick of hearing about the boy wizard, sick of seeing Daniel Radcliffe’s face everywhere and mostly, sick of people expecting me to be obsessed with it.  Granted, I did enjoy the books that I’d read, and the movie wasn’t bad (if lacking), but I felt like I had to fight the world.  Part of me was a little sad, but I refused to acknowledge it.  I didn’t want to be like everybody else.

My sister didn’t share my views, and ate up all the HP goodness she could.  She’d buy the books as they came out, see the newest movies in the cinema, even write fanfiction in her free time.  We were polar opposites (which is hardly anything new).

I fought the fight for over a decade.  I didn’t read any more of the books, didn’t see any more of the movies, refused to partake in discussions about any of it.  I told people I didn’t like the series, when actually it was the hype I didn’t like.  The more films that came out, the bigger the hype.  When the last book came out, I still remember the news reports with kids who lined up for hours to get their copy.  When they got it they hugged it and bawled their eyes out.  They’d stay up all night reading it to try to be the first in the world to finish it.  I watched the report, rolling my eyes and scoffing.  What was wrong with these kids?  It’s just a book.

Last month, I decided after all these years, to listen to that sad little voice that had been within me this whole time, who kept saying “you’re allowed to like the series along with everyone else!  Please don’t stop reading!  You want to know what happens!”.  I read the books as avidly as I had the first time.  It had been so long since I’d read them that a lot of the stuff that happened was actually surprising, which was pretty cool.  It was like I got a second chance to read it for the first time.  I managed to read all 7 books within a month, and it was only then, as I finished the last one, that I wish I’d read it along with the rest of the world.  Suddenly, I understood the hysteria.  I was sad – really, really sad – that I’d come to the end of Harry’s story.  I completely understood why people wrote fanfiction, why others were obsessed with the Pottermore site, why people would hold Harry Potter themed parties.  The series was magical, in every sense of the world.  Reading it so late, though, meant I’d missed my chance to talk to others about it.  The hysteria finally subsided, and I wasn’t going to be the one to desperately try to bring it back.

All I could do to try to keep the series going was watch all the movies, and I enjoyed them (moreso than I had when I was 12) but it wasn’t the same.  I expected them to leave a lot out and change things, which they did, and I just couldn’t get the same feeling back I’d had while reading the books.  I had to accept it, I’d have to move on with my life.  It seriously felt like a weird kind of mourning.  Partly it was a mourning because I could never read the books again not knowing what was coming next…and partly because I’d missed out on going through the excitement when I was younger.  That ship had sailed and there was nothing I could do to bring either thing back.

I’d finally learnt a valuable lesson, a decade too late – always be yourself and don’t let anyone influence your decisions.  If I hadn’t let the hype get to me, and if I had of listened to that little voice, I’d have enjoyed the ride with everyone else.  Instead, I’m left to enjoy it alone…and that’s no fun!  Better late than never though, I suppose.

-JD