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  • Writer's pictureKerstin Ramstrom

5 Ways to Protect Yourself Online

The online social media universe is a wonderful place - it gives you a chance to meet people from all over the world with whom you have things in common, whether it's a hobby like quilting or Scuba diving, or people who have been following a similar health journey to yours.

However, it also has its pitfalls - trolls, impersonators, so-called 'fact checkers', and flat-out con-artists who can make the social media universe a frustrating and also potentially dangerous place. So here are five ways that you can protect yourself from some of the dark energy that's out there right now.

1) Use Two-Factor Authentication for your Facebook and Instagram accounts

More and more people are seeing their Facebook and Instagram accounts being taken over. Hackers find a way to change the password on your account to prevent you from gaining access to it again. And it can be difficult or even impossible to get your account back after this happens, because customer service at Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram) does not seem to care or help people when this happens.

Two-Factor Authentication means that the company will double-check with you when key changes are made to your account. For example, if someone wants to change the password on your account, the company can send you a text message to ask if this is you requesting this change. If it's not you, you've just been tipped off that someone is trying to hack your account. In many cases, they won't be able to change the password because they won't be receiving the text message with the code needed to make the change. Problem averted. Phew!

How to set up Two-Factor Authentication on Facebook:

From your desktop:

  • Click on the down arrow in the very upper right hand corner to view Your Account

  • Click on Settings & Privacy

  • Click on Settings

  • Click on Security & Login on the left hand side of the page

  • Scroll down to Two-Factor Authentication in the center and choose the method you would like to use (text message is one of the easiest)

From a mobile device:

  • Click on the Menu button in the lower right-hand corner (symbolized by the three horizontal lines)

  • Scroll down and click on Settings & Privacy

  • Click on Settings

  • Under Account, click on Password and Security

  • Scroll down to Two-Factor Authentication and click on Use Two-Factor Authentication and choose the method you would like to use

How to set up Two-Factor Authentication on Instagram:

  • Click on your profile pic in the lower left-hand corner

  • Click on the Menu button in the upper right-hand corner (symbolized by the three horizontal lines)

  • Click on Settings

  • Click on Security

  • Click on Two-Factor Authentication and choose the method you would like to use

2) Block so-called 'Fact Checkers' from your Facebook account

Facebook and many other social media companies have increased the amount of fact checking that they have been doing on their platforms because social media has become such an effective way to disseminate information, regardless of whether it's true or false. And while conceptually this is a great idea, the problem is that it is not clear who is deciding what 'the truth' is.

Unfortunately, some of these Fact Checkers don't believe in concepts such as the proven healing power of fruits and vegetables and they have been busy trying to censor posts and comments that involve things that you may want to share on your account.

One way to try to work around this, is to Block Fact Checkers from your Facebook account. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not know how effective this is because there are likely other fact checkers out there whose accounts aren't called "Fact Checker" on Facebook, but I do believe that this can make an incremental difference.

To block someone from your Facebook account:

(Note: I have found this easiest to do from my phone rather than on an tablet or desktop. When I do this from my phone, I can block individual accounts one after another. When I try it on my tablet or desktop, I have to type "fact checker" into the search bar after each and every account I block. And I will tell you, you will be *shocked* by how many fact checker accounts you're going to see.)

  • Click on the Menu button in the lower right-hand corner (symbolized by the three horizontal lines)

  • Scroll down and click on Settings & Privacy

  • Click on Settings

  • Scroll down to Audience and Visibility and click on Blocking

  • Click on the blue "+ Add to Blocked List"

  • Type in "Fact Check", "Fact Checker", and "Fact Checking". Then you can click the box labeled Block on the right hand side. Feel free to try any other permutations of the words 'Fact' and 'Check' to see what other accounts you may come up with. (This is where my note from above comes in handy to make this more efficient.)

You will want to come back to Block new fact-checker accounts every few weeks as more will appear. The first time you do this, there will likely be hundreds of these accounts that show up. (I have checked this every few weeks for the past year and a half or so and just blocked another 30 accounts as I walked through the steps to write this.)

3) Turn off Instagram Post Filtering/Screening

Instagram has added an adjustable algorithm filter to give you some control over what type of content is shown to you in your feed. The challenge is that some of the information that Instagram tags as 'upsetting' or 'offensive' can actually be valuable health information that is being shared by members of our community!

How to adjust this setting:

  • Click on your profile pic in the lower right-hand corner

  • Click on the three horizontal bars in the top right-hand corner

  • Click on Settings (top entry in the menu)

  • Click on Account

  • Click on Sensitive Content Control

  • Click on Allow, Limit, or Limit Even More (I have mine on Allow and have not had anything 'offensive' or 'upsetting' making it through.)

If you have trouble getting this to work, you may need to disconnect your Facebook account from your Instagram account. Here is a LINK to instructions about how to do that.

4) Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to prevent others from tracking your online activities

A Virtual Private Network essentially acts like an intermediary between your computer and the websites you visit so that those sites can't track your IP address and browsing history (ever seen an ad on Facebook for juicer you were just Googling yesterday?). When your VPN is on, the site you're browsing will only track back to the VPN provider, not back to your computer.

This is especially important when using public wi-fi because hackers can position themselves between you and the wi-fi hotspot and track what you are doing online, including trying to find your passwords and other key identifying information. The VPN will act like a wall so that the hacker can't 'see' you.

There are many VPN providers out there, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark. If a VPN is something you would like to consider, choose a paid service. As you know, you get what you pay for and a free VPN is not likely not going to provide you with the protection you'd like.

5) Try DuckDuckGo, a free internet browser that does not store your activity

While Google tracks what you search for and keeps track so that it can tailor its search algorithm and ads to your interests, it also means that they are tracking and storing your personal information!

You can use DuckDuckGo as a browser or attach an extension to your favorite browser so that it will thwart browsers and sites from collecting your information.

Staying in touch

If you want to make sure that we can stay in touch even if one or both of us have an issue with our social media accounts, I invite you to join my email list. You will receive useful and helpful updates and information for your health journey every few weeks. Please email me at to let me know that you'd like to join.

And if you'd like to hear more about ways to work around some of the other frustrating things that are going on around our community, please check out Quest for Healing Episode #66: S#$t that's Pissing Me Off!


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