Social media platforms provide an easy way to stay in touch with family members who live far away, reconnect with old friends and colleagues, find out about local events that match your interests and see the latest photos of those adorable grandchildren (as well as grand-dogs and grand-cats). According to Pew Research’s 2021 social media fact sheet, 73% of adults ages 50 to 64 and 45% of adults aged 65 or older report using at least one social media site. There are many benefits to this increasingly popular technology, but there are also some important steps you should take to protect your privacy and avoid scams.
What Are the Benefits of Using Social Media?
Several studies have shown that internet usage, which includes time spent on social media, can reduce depression among seniors. That makes sense, as social media allows you to communicate with friends and loved ones you may not see frequently, enjoy the nostalgia of connecting with an old classmate or childhood friend, get involved with local civic causes (if that’s your thing), join a shared interest group or just have a laugh at funny photos or jokes shared by your social media connections.
Following or liking trustworthy news organizations can help you stay in the know about current events. Doing the same with a favorite local business (or several) will keep you informed about new products and potential discounts. For creative types, it can also be a great platform to connect with fellow artists, get feedback on your latest work and even sell your wares.
Simple Strategies to Stay Socially Safe
If you’re reluctant to join social media because you’re worried about the technological learning curve – help is available! In addition to friends, children or grandchildren who can help you set up an account, many community organizations and retirement communities offer technology classes or personal assistance that can help you navigate new sites or devices.
If you’re already pretty tech-savvy, you’ll just want to make sure you take the proper steps to protect your personal information and know when to suspect – and avoid – scams. Here are some simple things you can do to enjoy social media safely:
- Use privacy settings: User-controlled privacy settings allow you to decide who can view and interact with your social media account. Make sure your profile is only visible to the connections you choose, rather than the public; create a strong password; and take advantage of other security settings.
- Choose your friends wisely: Connect with people you know and trust with your photos and whatever details about your life you decide to share. Ignore invitations to connect from strangers.
- Watch what you share: Never post sensitive information like your phone number, address, Social Security number, financial information, passwords, or any other personal details cyber criminals could use to steal your identity or compromise your accounts. For safety reasons, also avoid announcing if you’re leaving for a trip or documenting your location (until you return).
- Take advantage of private messaging: Want to share something with a group of close friends or a single person but not your whole social media community? Send a direct message to avoid it popping up on your profile, but remember to keep sensitive information out of the conversation.
- Know how to spot and sidestep scams: Be cautious when it comes to suspicious behavior by accounts claiming they’re your contacts, strange links, and offers that seem too good to be true or that require you to provide sensitive information. Don’t click on or share anything you think might be questionable, and let your social media friends know if you received something strange from them.
It’s also good practice to do your own research with legitimate media outlets before sharing “news,” on social media, as there’s been a significant increase in social media-driven propaganda and conspiracies.