The average American spent more than 1,300 hours on social media in 2020. Of course, we are all aware of how unique 2020 was — and it appears as though those hours are certainly pandemic-influenced as the the daily average for social media use in Americans in 2019 was 2 hours 22 minutes per day, or roughly 864 hours annually. While thankfully not quite as hectic as 2020, 2021 is not a year where we are fully back to a 2019-and-prior definition of normal, so it is likely fair to say that we are sitting somewhere between that range between the 860s and 1300s.
This certainly sounds like a lot of time, but to better quantify it, it’s best to look at a year overall: We have 8760 hours of time in a typical calendar year; if we estimate sleep averaging out to 8 hours of sleep per night (which is an optimistic estimate for many of us), time spent sleeping accounts for 2,920 hours or a third of our year. If you have a typical 40-hour work week schedule, this time working accounts for 2,080 hours or roughly 24% of the year. Social media time may very well overlap with work hours (as much as those in managerial positions would prefer not to be reminded of that). Additionally, time spent on social networks can even cut into our sleep time and the unquantified personal time not mentioned above (as much as medical professionals would prefer that sleep and personal/mental-health time be kept separate from social media). Regardless of this overlap, social media takes up, in one way or another, nearly 15% of our time.
Despite the fact that this takes up a significant amount of our time, not all of us use social media in the most cybersecure ways. Even those of us who are aware of cybersecurity best practices can use a refresher on some of the quick tips that help make navigating various social networks safer.
Don’t give away information for cutesy quizzes. A commonly seen issue with social media sites like Facebook are the seemingly cute but clear phishing attempts in the form of “find out your ____ name” posts. Though it is just barely Fall now, I’ll use the Find Your Elf Name as an example. As you can see, it looks like a cute game social media users can play to find out their hypothetical elf name. While it might seem cute to tell your followers that your elf name according to this image is Snowy Spice (what I imagine to be the seasonal addition to the Spice Girls), commenting or sharing your response to these posts makes your answer visible not just to your friends, but to everyone online.
Though this seems like a benign amount of information, cybercriminals are constantly looking for clues as to how to figure out your passwords and get into your private accounts. These images and their hundreds of comments are like a victim-submitted database for cybercriminals, and they likely can prove to be a goldmine if you also do not practice proper password hygiene.
Practice proper password protection. A good rule of thumb when it comes to updating your passwords is to change your passwords for key accounts with private information quarterly, or every three months. Update all accounts at least every six months, even those which you deem to have less important information than others. Data breaches affect businesses of all kinds and a dormant account with poor passwords can be the leak needed by a cybercriminal to access your more vital logins.
It can be difficult remembering passwords, particularly with how many different logins you need nowadays. If this is something you struggle with do not write down your passwords on a sticky note in your desk drawer, rather download a secure password manager. There are many free options out there for you and this way, you only need to remember one complex password in order to gain access to your various account logins.
Staying organized with your passwords and updating them often helps you to create a strong base for protecting your login information. In order to further protect your accounts, be sure to utilize multi-factor authentication whenever possible. This is the term used for the additional code you get sent to your phone number or email when logging into sites. Though it may seem like a small, semi-inconvenient step, it can be the difference between you trying to login to your account legitimately and a malicious actor trying to gain entry. If the cybercriminals somehow cracks the code to your password but does NOT have access to your phone, this can stop an attempt in its tracks. The need to know multiple pieces of information in order to gain access to your data makes the cybercriminals’ work that much more difficult and will hopefully deter them from trying to take your information since you have put in the work up front to protect it.
Step away from social media for mental clarity. As mentioned above, up to 15% of our time is consumed by social media. While these networks can be excellent tools for keeping in touch with far away relatives or keeping in the know on breaking news, they can also warp our perceptions of ourselves and others. Keep in mind that people only tend to post their triumphs and high points on social media — do not compare your whole life to what you see on social media. Additionally, be sure to take time away from social networks, get outside and enjoy some sun or get around to trying out a hobby you’ve been meaning to get to!