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How to stay safe, secure and sane on social media (a guide)


Sajda Mughal OBE was featured in LiveHealthy providing her expert advice on how to stay safe and have a positive experience online.


Read more here or below.




How to manage what you see

“Social media content is just what individuals and companies want people to see, so, it can be damaging to mental health to compare ourselves with accounts that seem to have perfect lives, ‘perfect’ bodies, and perfect careers, when it’s just a highly filtered version of life,” explains Sajda Mughal OBE, digital expert and developer of Web Guardians (TM), a digital safety program designed to protect women and young people from online extremism and hate. “To ensure you don’t see content that triggers unhealthy responses only follow accounts that you know produce content that is good for you, ‘mute’ and ‘unfollow’ anything that doesn’t.” 


If you want to go one step further, ‘blocking’ will prevent all interactions between you and the other account, and if you feel strongly affected by the content in a negative way, then click ‘report’ in the drop-down menu on the top right of the post. Meta insists it is working hard to police content, telling LiveHealthy that they “find half of what we remove on Facebook, and 80 percent of it on IG, before anyone reports it.”


How to avoid negative comments

“Engage strong privacy settings,” advises Mughal. “Such as ‘Close Friends’ settings — only letting people whom you approve to follow you, so that your posts aren’t open to the general public. It is possible on most apps, including Facebook and Twitter, to toggle who can view your different posts which means that you can restrict it to only a few select people if you’re aware you’re making a post that may be vulnerable to abuse. Similarly, most apps have a function where you can delete or hide comments on your posts.”


Facebook and Instagram have a new ‘comment warning’ function (currently only available in English) that notifies people when a comment they’re typing may be considered offensive before it’s posted, giving them a chance to rethink their language. There’s also a ‘comment filter’ in settings where you can veto words you don’t want used in comments on your posts. You can also opt for ‘pinned comments’ and pin all the positive comments to the top of your comments thread. Other options on Instagram: you can restrict someone, so comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to them, you won’t see their direct messages and they won’t be able to see when you are active on the platform. Instagram also has a fairly new tool that allows you to bulk-delete 25 comments at once, should you face a deluge of abuse, and has also added new controls that allow you to manage who can tag or mention you.


Be conscious of algorithm manipulation 

“Think about recent conversations, locations and websites you’ve visited and whether there is a connection between any of these and the content or adverts that you see online,” says Mughal. “It is possible to decrease the likelihood of algorithm manipulation by restricting the use of cookies, only allow “necessary cookies” when a site asks you to set your privacy settings, this determines how a site will then use your data. On iPhone, there is also the option to choose whether an app can track your activity across other sites. Not allowing this also decreases the likelihood of such manipulation.”


Another trick to outsmart the algorithm machine is changing the way your home feed is arranged by swapping to ‘most recent’ tweets or posts on both Facebook and Twitter (in drop-down menu on newsfeed pages). As a default, the algorithm will show you posts with the most likes, friends and accounts you most engage with, and ads picked around your ‘interests’, while ‘most recent’ shows posts chronologically, so you see everything. An added bonus to this is a definite reduction in the number of advertisements. You can also remove certain advertisers from your Facebook feed in the ‘settings’ section of the ‘settings & privacy’ functionality.