It’s Not Being Anti-Social, It’s Being Safe:
Navigating Social Networking Sites Safely
The following article is based on the ISG presentation Navigating Social Networking Sites Safely, which is held periodically. For those who may not have had an opportunity to attend one of those sessions, here are a few of the key points, some timely tips, plus a short game at the end to see if you know how to protect yourself online.
Randi likes to spend her Saturdays rollerblading the Washington County bike path but is new in town and wants to find someone to skate with her. Howard is planning an overnight in Maine and would like to know more about his hotel choices than what appears on their web sites. Kyle loves everything about kites and wants to share his experiences, tips and photos with other like-minded enthusiasts.
Luckily we live in a Web 2.0 age that makes it easy to connect with others. But it’s much more than just casual conversations at a big virtual party. Social networking sites let you share work and ideas, images and sounds, avatars and bared souls. They can be a great PR tool and even help you land a job. They keep communication flowing with your family and friends across distances. They can also shape the political process, bestow 15 minutes of fame, and put the global community at your fingertips.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that something so powerful can also be dangerous. Consider some of the downsides of social networking:
- Your most personal information could find its way into the wrong hands, tarnishing your reputation (which has even led to some tragic consequences).
- Once you’ve posted, you’ve lost control. It never goes away!
- Some applications, such as Facebook, are less private by default.
- It can actually make you “anti-social” if you spend all of your time in front of a monitor.
- Dual personalities abound. Predators LOVE social networking!
What you can do?
- Google yourself regularly.
- Avoid crazy email addresses.
- Don’t blindly connect!
- Regularly check your friends’ pages to see what they may have posted about you.
- Be wary of unknown friends.
- Edit your wall posts as needed.
- Don’t write anything that can come back to get you in the future.
- Consider not posting your photo or pictures of your residence.
- Don’t establish patterns or announce unsafe situations.
- Trust your gut instinct.
The most important piece of advice is: Lock it down, and make it private. (click for a quick overview of Facebook and MySpace privacy settings)
Though you may not use a social networking site yourself, you may have children who do. If so, start by learning about the medium and talk to your kids. Ask to see their page. Give them a little warning by setting up a time in the near future so that they have the option to do some site “housecleaning”. On the other hand, forget the “invasion of privacy rule”. What’s out on the Internet for an unknown number of strangers to see is no longer private. But temper your concern: don’t believe everything you read on line, and remember some of your wild childhood experiences.
In summary, if you take anything away from this article, let it be these five points:
- Think of social networking sites as billboards in cyberspace.
- Be cautious about meeting new friends.
- Think twice before clicking on an attachment.
- Guard your financial and sensitive data.
- Protect your computer.
Ready for the game? Log onto the OnguardOnline web site to play “Friend Finder” and see how you do.
- Gartner – “… software that facilitates supports and promotes non-routine interactions between people within an organization. This broad definition encompasses conventional communication and collaboration tools such as e-mail and shared workspaces, technologies for social network analysis and dynamic profile management, and forms of group interaction such as social bookmarks, social tagging, content ratings, and blogs and wikis.”
- Forrester (social computing) – “A social structure in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions.”
- Wikipedia sums it up as software that “enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication”.
Types of Social Networking
- Blogs, wikis, P2P, podcasts, RSS, Tags, Bookmarks, Folksonomies, Social Network sites, Mashups , Social Network Analysis, Search Engines
Popular Social Networking Sites
- General social networking sites: www.facebook.com/; www.myspace.com/; www.friendster.com/; www.brightkite.com (location based)
- Business-related: www.linkedin.com/; www.ecademy.com/ ; www.typepad.com/
- Sharing photos, faves and fragments: www.flickr.com/; www.digg.com/; www.twitter.com/
- Blogosphere: www.eblogger.com/; www.livejournal.com/; www.blogger.com/
- Kids and parents: www.clubpenguin.com/; www.staysafeonline.info/content/protect-your-children; www.onguardonline.gov/topics/social-networking-sites.aspx
- Games and virtual worlds: www.secondlife.com/; www.thesims2.ea.com/
- WayBack machine and more: www.archive.org/
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