After Abuse: Staying Safe on Social Media

By: Meghan Mausteller

With dozens of social media sites available, it’s almost impossible not to have some type of online presence. Unfortunately for survivors of domestic violence, this can make the internet an unsafe place. However, this does not mean that you have to delete your accounts simply for safety’s sake. There are steps you can take in order to make sure your personal accounts remain private and inaccessible to your abuser.

Use these helpful tips to keep yourself safe online, while still able to maintain an online presence.

Block your abuser

All social media sites have options available where you can block another person. This means they will not be able to search for you, send you messages, see anything you post on a mutual friend’s page or in any way contact you directly from their page.

On FaceBook, you can block someone by going on their page and clicking the button on the far right of their banner. This produces a drop-down menu. “Block” is the option on the very bottom of the list.

Unfortunately, this does not prevent them from contacting you through groups or apps on FaceBook, but it is the first step you can take to make it more difficult for your abuser to contact you.

Change your name

Rather than using your full first and last name online, try using a different variation of your name in order to make it more difficult for your abuser to find you. Teachers often use this technique to prevent their students from finding them online.

For example, if your name is “Samantha Elizabeth Smith”, you could change your username to “Samantha Liz” or “Sammie Elizabeth” or “Lizzie Sam.” These name combinations will be more difficult for your abuser to guess and prevent them from easily finding your profile.

Don’t tag your location

FaceBook has a lot of options for you to tag yourself at specific locations. While it’s fun to say that you’re out for drinks with your friends or spending the week at the beach, tagging your location lets your abuser know exactly where you are. Refrain from tagging yourself at a location or, if you’re on vacation, only post tag pictures once you return home.

When you download the FaceBook app, it automatically asks if it can use your location. This causes your profile to list your location next to the date or time you made the post. In order to change this setting on an iPhone, you have to go into your settings and find the button that says “FaceBook.” Click here and then go into “Settings.” From here, you’ll see a bar that says “Location.” You have the option to change location setting to “Always,” “While Using the App,” or “Never.” Selecting “Never” means that FaceBook will not publish your location on any of your future posts.

Change your privacy settings

Your privacy settings can allow people to find you through your phone number, as well as your name. At the top of your FaceBook page, click on the lock at the right corner of the screen. This will allow you to perform a privacy checkup. You can go step-by-step through your settings and decide who can see your posts, what apps can see your information and who is able to view or search your phone number, email address, birthday and hometown.

Changing all of these settings to “Only Me” will make other people unable to search for you by using alternative information.

Ask your friends to block or unfriend them

An easy way for an abuser to find you is through your friends. Even if you make an effort to block them, change your name and avoid publishing your location, if your friends don’t make the same efforts and still tag you in any items, your abuser can easily find you.

Message your friends and politely ask that they, too, block or unfriend your abuser. Making this small effort can help ensure that your abuser cannot locate you through someone else’s account.

Social media has given us a lot of benefits, but it also makes your personal information accessible to anyone, including your abuser. Many of these precautions can be applied to other social media such as Twitter or Instagram. However, following these steps can make social media a lot safer and prevent your abuser from contacting or finding you online and permit you to continue sharing your memories and experiences with your friends and family.

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