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BellaOnline's Solo Travel Editor
 

Social Media Safety on the Road

When I travel, I'm a nut about safety. Sometimes to my own detriment. If I don't like the vibe from the cab driver, I pass on it and walk or wait for the next cab to show up. If I look outside my hotel door and my gut says "let's stay here for the evening," I don't go out. There are a few cities that I've only seen the great hotels of, but I've never regretted listening to my intuition - after all, I'm still here and I've rarely had a bad travel experience.

But one thing that I do - that always makes me pause a little when I do it - is tweet. I do get a little rush out of checking in on FourSquare at a new or infrequently-visited airport, and I like to take photos occasionally of the weird stuff I encounter and post them online with a tag about where I am and what I am doing.

And the one thing that really made me balk was the last time I was in Phoenix, and hanging out at Sky Harbor for the umpteenth time this year. Out of nowhere, my BlackBerry buzzed and I got a tweet reply from someone that I didn't know - who happened to be at Sky Harbor, too, and was searching for similar souls who were also stuck there because of the weather and was I near here? What that soul didn't know was that tweet was also a way of freaking me out. All of the sudden, my small, anonymous world was not so anonymous any more.

We are so used to streams of information coming from all over the place that sometimes, we forget that there could be security issues with allowing strangers into the bubble of our existence. On Facebook, you have to know me in order to see my status updates - I keep that locked down to a group of people I trust. But on Twitter, my updates are in the public timeline, and therefore discoverable.

What's more, it's not just that the Shadowed Tweeter found me at Phoenix Sky Harbor; it's also pertinent information for people to know that I'm not at home (but my dogs ALWAYS are so if you want to be lunch for my German Shepherd, come on over...). I don't want to come home to a broken door, missing computers and TVs, and a space that's been violated.

So I'm getting smarter about what information I'm letting out to the world when I travel solo. I think everyone should.

1. I don't publish my whereabouts to Twitter unless I'm in or near my hometown.

2. If you use something like FourSquare, double-check your privacy settings to ensure that you're not posting to Twitter automatically.

3. If your Facebook status updates are open territory for the world to see, consider limiting them to just the people you trust.

I don't discount the security feature that is inherent within things like FourSquare - if you check in somewhere and disappear, it gives a starting point. Just don't give people you don't know a reason to come looking for you - on your own turf or off it.

Safe Travels.

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