Red Riding Hood as a Warning for Social Media
Today, I have a treat for all of you. Kait Nolan, author of Red, (an AMAZING YA fiction–and I am SUPER picky) is here to talk to you guys about a subject that is near and dear to my paranoid little heart. I am a huge proponent of operational security. What does operational security mean in plain English? Understand your enemy and deny him access. Social media offers wonderful advantages to the digital age author. But, with new opportunities come new threats.
Kait is going to show us what Little Red Riding Hood can teach us about staying safe while traversing dark forests of social media. Take it away Kait…
I did a lot of research on the origins of the Red Riding Hood legend in the course of writing my current book, Red. There are several iterations, spanning a pretty wide range of locales, but they all tended to have one specific thing in common. The take home message was Don’t talk to strangers or there will be consequences. In most versions of the story, the consequences for Red spilling the beans “Oh, I’m on my way to grandma’s house!” is that grandma gets eaten. Pretty stiff penalty for not keeping your mouth shut!
There’s a real parallel of this moral in the world of social media. Oh, not in the don’t talk to strangers part. Obviously that’s part and parcel of what we do with social media—connect with strangers and make new friends. But there’s a real tendency toward over-sharing in the world of Twitter and Facebook. And I don’t mean of the “Man, that Mexican I had for lunch is not sitting well!” variety.
All over social media you will see people Tweeting their location or Checking-In at places all over Facebook. Other people will do the same, tagging everybody they’re with. I seldom do this, other than checking in at the local frozen yogurt place for the 10% off discount. Why? Because all those “Hey! Look what I’m doing at location X!” are great big advertisements of “Look! I’m not at home! Come rob me!” A lot of people actually have enough information either in their profile or via their tweets and updates for the bad guys to find you. Addresses. Phone numbers. Pictures of your house. Pictures of your kids. Your kids’ real names.
Thieves aren’t the only predators out there trolling social media. There are stalkers. Pedophiles. All sorts of bad guys who look for their next victim through Twitter and Facebook because people are foolish enough to release all kinds of personal information about their location to the world. It makes it really easy for bad guys to follow your movements, your habits, learn your schedule. All of this just makes you easier prey.
In a recent episode of Rizzoli and Isles (awesome show, in case you’re not watching), a child was kidnapped because the bad guy had been corresponding with her via instant message on her smart phone. His handle was one small character off from her BFF and she was so into the conversation, she never even noticed. He arranged a meet and, thinking she was meeting her BFF, she went. And got snatched. Think this kind of thing only happens on TV? Think again. The FBI recently busted a local guy in my town for child pornography—and he was caught because of social media. There are whole teams of law enforcement who monitor social media looking for child predators.
Now I’m not bringing all this up to be a Debbie Downer, but I do bring it up to make you think. Go check your privacy settings on Facebook—God knows they keep changing stuff to make you inadvertently release information you probably didn’t intend. Nobody on social media needs to know your address, your phone number, where you are at any given time, your kid’s name, etc. Nobody not on your friends list needs to know where you work or go to school. If it’s somebody who knows you in real life, then they should know that stuff from somewhere OTHER than your profile. And use some forethought before you tweet or update anything about your real life that could be traceable. It may not happen to you, but you can never be too careful. There are worse things out there than the Big Bad Wolf.
Thank you, Kait! For some additional tips, here are my 5 Ways to Stay Safe on Social Media and still build an authentic platform.
Kait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss. When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots.