Many of us social media lovers enjoy scrolling through our Instagram feed, snapping selfies and tweeting “at” people we know. Some of us may have even found a job through LinkedIn or purchased items on Facebook’s marketplace.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center*, about two-thirds of U.S. adults say that they use Facebook, and about three-quarters of them visit Facebook on a daily basis. About three-quarters of U.S. adults say that they use YouTube, and about one-third say they use Instagram. For younger users especially, social media is even more prevalent. The study found that about 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. report that they use any form of social media.

What’s the catch?

While it’s a joy to live in a time when we can connect so spontaneously with so many people at once, we also need to be aware of the potential risks involved. Once we put our information online, it becomes available to a much larger audience than we may even realize. While we like our friends and family to know what we’re doing, where we are and how we’re feeling at any given moment, we don’t necessarily want strangers to be in the loop as well. So what is the best way to keep our personal information safe?

Here are a few best practices:

  1. Beware of sharing too much information. While it can be fun to share your experiences, photos and videos, avoid including specific details (such as your address, phone number and travel plans) that may disclose too much personal data at once. We’d also recommend not “checking in” or giving real-time locations online.
  2. Know your friends list. If you’re on social media to stay in contact and communicate with people you do know, avoid accepting requests from people you don’t know. Also, look for red flags like multiple accounts from one person (indicating spoofing) or a change in a friend’s tone on social media (indicating account compromise).
  3. Confirm your security settings. Take a look at you privacy settings and make sure you’re comfortable with them. You have control over several security options including who can see what, how you can be found, and what you can view. For example, if you don’t need to get updates from “friends of friends,” you may consider turning that function off.
  4. Lastly – be yourself, but remember that what you share is public. We can’t stress this advice enough. Embrace social media and take advantage of all it has to offer, but know that what you post, like, share, etc. could end up spreading far and wide. Strive to represent yourself in the best way possible.

In short, by putting less of your personal information online, you are making it harder for malicious people to gain access to it. Staying connected and being social is much more rewarding when you’re staying safe, too.