How to Avoid Embarrassing Yourself on Social Media

How to Avoid Embarrassing Yourself on Social Media
Photo: Franco Origlia / Contributor/ Getty Images , Getty Images

Though Catholic doctrine considers him the closest to the embodiment of Christ on Earth, the pope is no stranger to human folly. Earlier this week, Pope Francis fell victim to a classic thirst trap on Instagram, liking a racy post on Brazilian model Natalia Garibotto’s page. 

It’s funny to think of Pope Francis, a man sworn to celibacy who routinely kisses people’s babies, casually swiping through posts of scantily-clad women on social media. In truth, it probably wasn’t the octogenarian himself; the pope’s 7-million follower-strong Instagram account is undoubtedly run by a team of staffers, at least one of whom was casually horny while conducting official Vatican business this week.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, however, regardless of whether you are the pope, a social media manager, a high school student, or anyone else interested in saving face on social media.

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Understand which account you’re logged into

If you run a social media account for work, whether you’re on staff at a public official’s office or post on behalf of a brand, it’s likely that you regularly juggle both work and personal accounts.

Despite the simplicity of this idea, people post on the wrong accounts all the time, often to disastrous and humiliating effect. If you’d like to avoid going down this embarrassing route, simply take a second to double-check what account you’re using — every time you post, like, or share. Click on the profile icon, peruse the newsfeed to see if these are accounts you personally follow, etc.

Set up a burner account

Social media is teeming with fake accounts, so why shouldn’t one of them be yours? While you shouldn’t embark on the dastardly mission of trolling under a pseudonym, you can always set up a fake account if there are things on social you like to consume but want to keep secret from your family, friends, and coworkers.

Do you enjoy sparring with sports fans on Twitter about why their team sucks and yours is great? Set up an anonymous account. Do you like looking at sexy people striking sexy poses, but feel somewhat shy about it? Set up a burner account, and swipe to your heart’s content.

A burner account doesn’t give you licence to wreak havoc online. The internet is already a cesspool of misinformation, racism, and cruelty; your anonymous profile should rise above this toxic noise.

Understand your privacy settings and know how to use them

Though user privacy settings won’t stop social media platforms from siphoning up every morsel of traceable data about you, they can help save you from public humiliation.

Unfortunately, if, for example, you’ve “liked” a post on Instagram that you immediately regret, the like will still show up in the other user’s notifications even after you quickly try to take it back. As Lifehacker explained in 2018, “even if you remove the like right away, it will show” in the person’s feed momentarily, as well as in push notifications if they have them enabled.

Still, setting your account to a private or restricted view will conceal your profile from the general public, so you can retreat in this minimal sense at the very least.

You can learn how user privacy settings operate by referring to the teachings within this Lifehacker post, including this useful tidbit:

If you’re not already, get familiar with the privacy tools Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social networks make available to you. We have an always-up-to-date guide to Facebook privacy, and even services like Twitter and Instagram let you set your shares to private so only people you approve can see them. Use those security tools judiciously, not just on your posts, but anything you’re tagged in or that your friends post that includes you. Personally, I have a whole closed group of friends on a little-used social network that I use when I really need to vent. 

Maybe just log off?

Internet addiction is real, and prolonged time on social media can have a deleterious effect on your mental health for a whole host of reasons. It only makes sense that you’ll get more careless with your likes the longer you’re online during a given day. One actionable plan might be to set a schedule for yourself that places limits on how much time you spend combing through your various social feeds and channels.

Read a book, go outside, call your friends or mum. There’s so many things that are more valuable than idly swiping. You don’t need to follow the Pope’s example to understand that.

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