Don’t let the trolls in

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

All the hoo-hah that has erupted over the trolls invading the Southland Trader Co Facebook page is a good example of why we all should be careful about our online privacy.

If you upload photos to a social network site such as Facebook, you need to be aware of who will see those photos. And even more importantly, who can steal those photos.

I’m not singling out Facebook for criticism: all content you upload to the web is vulnerable. It’s quite simply that Facebook is one of the biggest players so is therefore one of the biggest targets.

If we, as adults, choose to post photos of ourselves on social networking sites, then that is our choice. However, if we load photos of others we should show a little consideration: don’t load images of your friends without letting them know you plan to because it’s their privacy you are compromising. And if you want to load photos of your children, perhaps it’s a good time to check your privacy options and limit access to those photos to a more select group of your closest friends and family rather than all 1000 of your internet friends, and their friends, and friends of friends, and . . . well, you get the picture.

It’s a bit like that old TV ad about the dangers of sexually-transmitted diseases: you might sleep with just one person but you are sleeping with their previous partners, and their partners’ partners, and so on. And let’s be honest, crossing paths with these online trolls is about as desirable as getting a blister on your nether regions so the analogy is quite apt.

It pays to pop into your account settings in Facebook from time to time and check if anything needs changing because it seems that every time there is a tweak or change in Facebook’s setup, it rattles your privacy settings. Click on the cog icon at the top right of your Facebook page, scroll down to “privacy settings” and have a bit of a play around until you get things just the way you want them. The ability to limit who can view every post, photo and gallery you post is something that is often overlooked, so don’t forget that you can click the dropdown at the bottom right on all content you are posting to change it from “public” (the default setting) to friends only.

It’s a shame that a small bunch of low-life bottom-dwellers can ruin what was shaping up to be a popular Facebook page but remember: don’t feed the trolls because your indignant reactions are what they thrive on.

Besides, take heart in the knowledge that anonymously bugging people online is the best thing in their lives and that much like high school bullies, this is them at their peak. They are to be pitied more than anything else.

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