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Facebook, love it or hate it, the online social network is now part of everyday life for a lot of people.

And when I say a lot of users, I mean it! Facebook currently has more than 2 billion active users per month! That’s nearly a third of the population of planet earth, logging in each month to check out what their friends are up to.

Facebook is a valuable tool, both to consumers and businesses – if used correctly. It can also be dangerous – sharing too much information can lead to problems too.

The first rule of Facebook should always be, “think before you post”. Then when you’re ready to post, think again. Is what you’re about to post, something that you would put on the notice board in the post office? It may well turn out to be just as public and could spread further than you originally intended. Some employers are now turning to Facebook to research potential employees. Would you want them knowing that you’ve complained about them previously, for example?

When posting to Facebook, you should be careful about what you post. Don’t post any personal contact information (phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) as this can be picked up by spammers and abused.

Be careful about posting your location. If you post that you’re going on a family vacation, you’re potentially notifying criminals in the area that your home will be unoccupied and inviting them in.

Don’t post something that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Sometimes it’s easier to type something than it is to say it. If that’s the case, it probably shouldn’t be typed either.

Facebook can often spill over into everyday life, be courteous and respectful otherwise it might come back to bite you.

Also, remember that just because you deleted something from Facebook – it doesn’t mean that someone else didn’t screenshot it first.

Now there are some steps you can take to improve your privacy whilst still being able to share with friends. For now, I’m going to assume that you’re using Facebook on a computer, rather than a tablet or phone. The interfaces are fairly similar so the directions should work on any platform, but there may be some differences.

You can access your privacy settings through the “settings” menu. On a computer, you can reach this via the “down” arrow at the top right of the window. Go into settings, and then select “privacy” via the list of options on the left-hand side.

The first setting of interest here is “who can see my stuff”. By default, this is set to “public”.

So when you post something – any of those 2 billion users can see it. If you change this to “friends”, only those who you’ve accepted as a friend will be able to see your posts.

Next – and this one is important – “Who can see your friends list”. Have you ever had a friend request from someone who is already your friend? This is from a spammer who has created a spam account, made to look like one of your friends. Because they left this option as “public” the spammer now has a list of people to contact whilst impersonating your friend. It’s a sneaky tactic, but it’s easy to stop this from happening to your account, just by changing this option to be “friends only”.

It’s also worth checking your privacy settings regularly to make sure nothing has changed and that everything looks correct.

Now if you do see a post which seems out of place or possibly spam, you can help Facebook by notifying them that there is something wrong. At the top right of each post is a little down arrow. Click on this and you get an option to “report post”. If enough people report a post, it’ll be blocked along with the user writing the posts.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Facebook is a really useful tool for keeping in touch with friends/community and can also be used by businesses and organizations to spread their message. Sometimes it can be overwhelming just how popular a post can turn out to be. For example, I posted a video to help promote the Road Train last year. I’ve just checked back and it’s had nearly 21,000 views so far!

Just be careful how and what you share. Until next time, keep posting and I’ll see you online.

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Nick Gunn moved to Tatamagouche from England and started up Scotia Systems, a computer support company. He is now the “go-to” guy in the community for computer problems. These articles are here to help spread advice and awareness of computer issues. Contact Nick at ngunn@scotiasystems.com or call 902 957-2575.