Rebuilding my System for Internet Safety

We are always trying to protect our kids, and our internet presences are no exception. We’ve all read the horror stories of sharing things publicly on the internet and we all know the risks. Or at least we think we do.

I always thought I did.

But then we read stuff like this (I’m not trying to encourage paranoia by sharing that, but I think this kind of thing is important to know) and we realize that maybe our systems aren’t always what we would hope them to be.

My system looks like this: I keep my Facebook profile private and dig through my friends once every few months or so to weed out those people whose profiles I no longer recognize (it has been a difficult task since I accepted many friendships during high school and college that were less friendships than situations of “oh hey, I randomly saw you at this thing.” We’ve all been there, I’m sure). I also keep my Instagram and my Twitter private. But I have gotten into conflict with friends and family at times because they have wanted to share photos of my son on their pages and what have you and I have said no. I have explained this pretty simply to mean:

I don’t want anyone I don’t know looking at my son.

I feel like that’s pretty understandable. But it’s a tough rule to monitor because I want to do things like allow my son’s grandparents to have photos of them with their grandson and tag my family and friends in photos I post of them with him. So I have made exceptions. I usually regret them, though.

A recent breach of security in my tiny internet world has prompted me to get the word out about my goals for my own internet presence. The story is a long one, as most stories are that involve things like cyber-stalking or real-life stalking. Some are short too, though, and that should definitely be considered when putting personal things out there. But mine is long, so I choose to keep it short.

For years I have tried to keep my information from getting to one specific person, and I don’t need to get into the “who” there. But somehow, before I had my baby, the walls were coming down and certain aspects of my life reached them (whether through mutual friends or accidental public Facebook posts). I realized that many people I was in touch with were still in touch with the person I wanted to be out of touch with, and that created conflict between me and a few of my friends (and, believe it or not, my family). And I almost never have conflict with my family members (I consider myself one of the lucky ones for that). Somehow I found that that person was reaching out to my fiancé at the time with threatening messages. Furthermore, because of an accidental public location tag of mine that I almost immediately found and deleted, that person had figured out where I was working and actually showed up there. This eventually cost me my job because I realized I was in danger when I went to it. And I really liked that job.

Anyway, I can whine about it all day, but it is my fault when that information gets out.

So it was also my fault when one day, a few weeks back, I realized that a friend had tagged me in a photo on Facebook. When I went to look at that photo I saw that more people had liked the photo than were accounted for in my browser (it showed something like five likes, but only four people). I’m sure most of you know that that means that someone who I had blocked like the photo. I knew right away who liked it and confirmed with my friend (who was a dolly: extremely apologetic and had forgotten she was friends with that person in the first place, like we all often do). But then I remembered that that same friend who is very dear to me had shared a blog post of mine a while back on her page. But I thought for sure that that person wouldn’t have dug back so far just to find other posts that this friend had mentioned me in. That would be pretty crazy.

But, of course, when I logged into my blog I found that there was one new view of my entire page that had been made within that small time frame. And with my blog, since I don’t use tags and I only have a few followers (I’m making myself sound real cool here), it is extremely rare for me to get views on days when I haven’t updated the blog to my Facebook or when I haven’t published anything on any site that is linked to my blog. In other words, there was a 97.8572 ish percent chance this was who I desperately wished it wasn’t.

So that was it. All of a sudden, in a matter of hours, my walls had come down again. People I didn’t want to view photos of my kid were viewing photos of my kid. And not just any photos of my kid, but my favorite, most beloved photos of my kid.

This is the reason I have been on a hiatus from my blog.

This is the reason all of my photos have been, and will continue to be, removed from it.

So much of my worry about who is looking at photos of my son has come from an avoidance of a specific person or a few specific people. But a lot of what happened there reminded me of those exceptions I had been making; those posts I allowed up because I didn’t want to hurt peoples’ feelings by asking them to take them down; those times I had made my Instagram public to try to make more connections.

Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes…

But the fact of the matter is that we are not always going to have security breaches like that to keep us from making more exceptions.

So we need to have systems: rules in place to keep our internet world exactly as big as we want it to be. And clearly my system needs a bit of tweaking at this moment, so I’m wondering what my friends and family are doing that works for them.

Do you only post photos of your kids with adults? Do you keep closer tabs on your friends list? Do you post all but have a “no share” policy?

I’m currently working on researching this for a bit for another post I am doing in the future that’s less personal, and I plan to have some interviews from some acquaintances who are more internet savvy than myself. But in the meantime I’d love to hear from you about what your internet system looks like. Let’s share the love and keep all of our babies safe!

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