Along with promising yourself you’ll stop biting your nails and give up eating cookies for breakfast, why not make some virtual resolutions too? Here are ten tech habits to adopt in 2015.
1. Change your Facebook privacy settings
Facebook is constantly changing and rearranging and rephrasing privacy settings. I could have sworn there was an option to keep all photos hidden, but when I checked earlier this month, it was gone, replaced by the ambiguously worded “How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?” No matter how bad Facebook and other social-media sites are at describing their settings, you still have the same responsibility to keep your some parts of your private life private while you broadcast the rest. So even if you think your settings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are in good shape, you should still check each of them to make sure digital you is just as coy as real you would want.
2. Back up your data to both a hard drive and the cloud
Hard drives fail and cloud-storage servers go down, so the only way to keep your data truly safe is multiple backups in multiple forms. You should have at least two physical backups: one hard drive that stays plugged into your computer for automatic backups and another stored somewhere safe. You should also regularly back up everything to the cloud; services like Carbonite and CrashPlan do it automatically. Just make sure to use good passwords for the cloud and keep those hard drives well hidden; it’s a tossup which is worse—losing everything or letting your photos get into the wrong hands.
3. Set up two-step verification for your email
The way things are going, it feels like we’re all going to get hacked sooner or later. If you’re not using two-step verification, you’re basically asking for it to happen. So do the equivalent of double-locking your email, and require both a password and a special code—sent to your phone, on demand—to get into your account. It’s really not a burden, and it’s definitely less onerous than retaking control after a hack. Think of it as temporary—fingerprint readers and eye sensors are bound to be here soon enough.
4. Physically clean your lint-covered phone (and crumb-covered computer)
Think of everywhere you use your phone. Now think of how often you clean it. Those two thoughts shouldn’t horrify you, but the only way they won’t is if you clean your phone (and computer and headphones and everything else) regularly. Wipe the screen with a microfiber cloth and spray a spritz of compressed air in its charging and headphone ports every once in a while to blast out inevitable pocket lint. And, to really go above and beyond, stop using your phone in the bathroom—really, you shouldn’t be in there that long anyway.
5. Keep track of your passwords (and stop using the same password for everything)
Every time another company gets hacked, we hear the same advice: Change your passwords, for everything, and use many different passwords. It’s a hassle, but it’s the same advice for a reason—when it comes to keeping your accounts secure, it’s one of the key tactics. That, and using secure passwords to begin with, should keep you safe. It’ll also keep you struggling to remember whether your password for Amazon is Imawesome10 or Imawes0me1, so a password-management application, like 1Password, is a must. Though it’s not quite a guarantee you won’t get hacked, it’s at least a step above receiving a new “Did you forget your password?” email every day.
6. Use hashtags sparingly
It’s just #commoncourtesy at this point to #know how to use #hashtags. Which is to say, it’s just common courtesy at this point to use hashtags rarely, if ever at all. For one, they’re visually annoying. They also doesn’t make much sense logically: If you use a hashtag in the hopes that people searching for that term will find your tweet, you’re betting that the term is popular enough to be searched for but not so popular that your tweet will be lost in a sea of similar ones. So save hashtags for actually important matters (#Icantbreathe) or actually fun Twitter games (#MakeAMoviePG).
7. Secure your Wi-Fi network (and stop banking on public Wi-Fi)
It’s tempting to log into Wi-Fi whenever it’s available, especially when it’s a network called “freewifi.” There’s no harm in connecting, but there is plenty of possible harm of doing too much online when you’re on an unsecured, public network. That means no banking, no shopping, no password entering. If you really need to do one of those things, it’s one of the most justifiable uses of your precious (and always dwindling) data plan.
8. Digitize your photos and music
Think of digitized photos and music as backups of real-life objects. They may not exist in the same way photo albums and CDs do, but they’re good safeguards in case those physical things themselves cease to exist. Plus, admit it: You haven’t carried around a Discman and a book of CDs around in at least a decade.
9. Keep your inbox under control
There’s a happy medium between “inbox zero” and an inbox with thousands of unread emails, and it’s a lot more pleasant to maintain than either of those extremes. One of the simplest and most effective tricks is using filters to automatically sort your emails, making them easier on the eyes and easier to find in search. Then there are the apps, the best of which—Mailbox, namely—understand the tendency to overuse “mark as read” and remind you of emails you need to respond to. But the one truly effective way to keep your inbox from driving you crazy is to revert to a tried and true means of communication: the good old telephone.
10. Update your software
Last but not least, an easy one: Make sure your computer and phone are running the most current software. The latest software (except for Windows 8, that is) is usually the nicest and smoothest to use, and it’s also the safest. And really, when you consider the magic of smartphones in the first place, is it that big of a burden to wait two whole minutes for your phone to restart?