Safety Tips For Social Networking: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Safe Online

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Writers have to be careful how they approach social networking. There’s the issue of “previously published material” to consider, concerns about copyright infringement and plagiarism, and then there’s the threat of spammers, hackers, viruses, phishers, and even stalkers (or at least overly enthusiastic fans)!

But engaging in social media and having a strong online presence are integral factors in developing an author platform, so let’s look at some ways writers can keep their work—and themselves—safe when participating in social networking sites and posting writing online.

What Is Previously Published Work?

If you’ve posted poems, stories, or essays in their entirety on a blog, website, social media sites, or an online literary journal, your work is generally considered previously published.

Because editors of literary journals and magazines shy away from previously published writing, don’t post your work online if you’re hoping to have it published elsewhere. Posting excerpts of your work or a revised version of the original material is usually fine.

Get the scoop on what is considered previously published writing.

Copyright Concerns And Protecting Your Intellectual Property

If you’re concerned that your blog entries, articles, or Web pages might be plagiarized, you can post a copyright notice on your website. (See www.copyright.gov for tips on wording and placement.)

Although it is not necessary to post a copyright notice in order for an author to have copyright protection, the symbol can serve as a warning to the global community that plagiarism will not be tolerated.

You might also print out copies of your online material, including source code and date, which may prove useful if you need to defend your intellectual property later.

Protecting Your Computer

When you’re on a social network, be careful about clicking on links that you didn’t ask for or were not expecting—even if they seem to be from someone you know. These can contain viruses or be part of phishing scams. Hackers can also send messages that look like they’re from friends or family.

Make sure your antivirus software is updated regularly, and install system patches (from the vendor only) as soon as they are available.

Use firewalls or routers as an extra layer of protection between your computer and the network.

Be careful when downloading third-party applications on social networking sites that allow you to enhance your profile or fan pages. These are susceptible to hacking, allowing access to your personal information. Only download from trusted providers.

Protecting Yourself On Social Networking Sites And Author Websites

Author websites and social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all about sharing information, so it can be tempting for writers to share personal information. But it’s important to draw a line between what you want your readers to know about you and your work and what’s best kept private (or shared on a personal profile page instead).

If you prefer to keep your identity private, you can use a pseudonym. Obviously you won’t want to use your street address in your contact information, but you can rent a post office box if necessary—and make sure your email address doesn’t include your real name.

Use the privacy and security settings on social media sites to control who has access to your information and who doesn’t. Check out the site’s help center for information on regulating your settings and make sure you understand the site’s privacy policies (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn).

Use strong, complex passwords, with separate passwords for each site. (A combination of capital and lowercase letters with numbers and/or symbols creates a stronger password.)

If you’re not sure of a network’s policies about privacy, refuse any offers to find out if your contacts are on the network. This allows the site to scan your address book and will give away the email addresses of your friends and fans. It’s a great way to lose those friends and fans!

Posting information about your hometown, birth date, mother’s maiden names, or high school can lead identity thieves to your door. If you want to maintain a degree of anonymity, don’t post from your local coffee shop or favorite restaurant, and don’t use technology like GeoLocation if you don’t want to give away your exact location.

With a little common sense, creative writers can safely use the Internet to great advantage without opening themselves up to potential problems. Writer’s Relief offers several articles to help writers boost their online presence through social media and author websites—sign up for our emailed newsletter, Submit Write Now, for hundreds of tips, tutorials, publishing leads, and how-to articles written especially for writers. It’s packed with information and it’s free!

Question: Do you have additional online safety tips? Share them here:

6 Responses to Safety Tips For Social Networking: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Safe Online

  1. What can I say? You guys have done it again. Questions I didn’t even know I wanted to ask have been answered.

  2. Thanks for writing this, a lot of good insight here. One of the things I sort of wish I would’ve done is use a pseudonym for my published work and social platforms.

    I sort of feel as if now, since I’m been going by Ryan S. Fortney for quite some time, it’d kinda be like hitting the reset button to change that.

    And a P.O. Box, I hadn’t thought of that!

    As far as security goes, if anyone uses Google+ and other Google products in conjunction with that, G actually offers some pretty nice security. It’s why I base a lot of what I do through Google now.

  3. Recently saw the following on a Goodreads review/blog and researched it: copyscape plagiarism checker, http://www.copyscape.com/plagiarism-software. It will check your website against “all” others and alert you if copies of your work are on the web (for free). You then have to send the cease and desist letter (or gentle note), but at least then you know you’ve been copied. If you want to purchase their service it will constantly monitor for plagiarism. They have an icon you can paste on your website as a warning (free). I can’t personally endorse it but plan to use it once my website is up.

    • Thanks for the information, Veronica! Looks like it could be a helpful tool for writers (or anyone with great content on their website).

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