Social Enterprise

10 ways to stay out of trouble when you post to social networking sites

The new head of British foreign intelligence recently demonstrated that anyone can suffer potentially embarrassing or damaging revelations through social networking activity - and even the most mundane and seemingly benign tweets and status updates can have far-reaching consequences. Deb Shinder explains why you should watch your step.

The new head of British foreign intelligence recently demonstrated that anyone can suffer potentially embarrassing or damaging revelations through social networking activity - and even the most mundane and seemingly benign tweets and status updates can have far-reaching consequences. Deb Shinder explains why you should watch your step.


A few years back, social networking (SN) was just for kids. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook were used primarily by teenagers and college students to interact with friends. Now as we approach the second decade of the twenty-first century, social networking has grown up and entered the mainstream. Everybody who's anybody has at least dabbled in it, and the demographics are definitely changing. I recently received a Facebook "friend" request from an 88-year-old lady, and she is by no means the only senior citizen on my friends list. Other friends include 20something family members and at least one 18-year-old who's a fan of my newsletters, as well as numerous colleagues in the tech industry, folks from high school, several aunts and cousins, and quite a few people I worked with in my law enforcement days.

When you have such an eclectic group of people all watching, at the same time, what you're saying, it can present some challenges and potential problems. Most of us don slightly different personas depending on where we are and who we're with. We don't act the same or say the same things when we go to dinner with mom and dad as when we're out with longtime friends, and we adopt yet another demeanor when we're dining with business associates. Yet our social networks may bring people from all these groups, and others, together. That's why it's important to sit down and think about a few issues before you begin building a social network -- and plan a strategy that will let you enjoy its benefits without doing harm to your career, your marriage, or your friendships. And if it's too late for that, it's not too late to consider the following 10 things the next time you start to post to a SN site.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Where are you and what are you here for?

The first thing to consider is the nature of the social networking site(s) you're using. Some sites are geared toward professional and business relationships, while others are more purely social. Some posts that wouldn't cause anyone to lift an eyebrow on Facebook or MySpace would be considered inappropriate on LinkedIn. This is true even if you have the same contacts on both sites. Think of it this way: You probably don't behave exactly the same way in the office as when you're out at a restaurant or bar with friends from the office.

There are applications that allow you to link your updates across sites. For example, when you post to Twitter, the post also automatically becomes a status update to your Facebook page. This can save time and effort when used properly. However, if used incorrectly, it can alienate your friends. Twitter followers generally have no problem with you tweeting many times per day. Your Facebook friends may not be as happy to see your hourly updates, especially if they're along the lines of "Now I'm about to go to the store," and "Just finished dinner and ready to load the dishwasher." I know several people who have gone so far as to "unfriend" Facebook friends whose excessive Twitter updates fill up their feed.

Whereas some sites, such as LinkedIn and Classmates.com, have a more narrowly defined purpose, the more general SN sites can be used in different ways. A Facebook page can be used to keep in touch with family and friends who live far away, to get back in touch with old schoolmates or former work colleagues, to interact with others in your industry, to try to find a job, or as a dating service. Any of those purposes can be a legitimate use of the sites, but you may run into problems if you try to combine purposes on one site.

2: Who's in the audience?

Social networking is generally (although not exclusively) a form of written communication. All writers know that the first rule of writing is to know who's in your audience, because that determines not only what you say but also how you say it. If you've decided to use SN as a general public broadcast tool, being familiar with everyone in the audience is not as important. For instance, I use Twitter to announce when I have a new article published or make a new blog post, or to call attention to articles by others that I feel are worthwhile. My Twitter page is open to everyone and goes into the public timeline, and I keep my updates there appropriate for that purpose.

My Facebook account is used for a very different purpose and is closed to the public. I find it best to know something about the people in that smaller circle of friends, to be aware of issues that might be hot buttons and topics of conversation that may make some of them uncomfortable. You also have to keep in mind that you can't please everybody. One of my Facebook friends recently criticized me for posting about "trivial topics" like birds and cats and TV shows when there are so many important and even life-threatening things going on in the world. Another friend noted that Facebook is where she comes to get away from the political arguments, dire economic forecasts, and other unpleasantness. And others likened your social networking page to your living room or front yard -- a place that belongs to you, but where others pass through to visit. On your own private property, you set the tone and the rules. If others don't like it, they can leave; if they don't respect your rules, you can have those visitors removed.

Ultimately, most sites allow you to control who your audience is, and many of us pick our online friends pretty carefully. Then there are those who are "friend collectors." You know who I'm talking about: the guy or gal who has 1,500 "friends," many of whom he/she has never met, virtually or otherwise, and knows nothing about -- but he/she feels validated by this "popularity." Politicians and celebrities often fall into this category, too. Sometimes, not so much because they compulsively seek out "friends" as because they're afraid to refuse any friendship request for fear it will mean a lost vote or a disgruntled fan. How many friends is too many? Only you can decide -- and there's no right answer. What's important is that you decide whether to have an open door policy or to be more picky, and tailor your posts accordingly.

3: Do you dare mix business with pleasure?

One of the biggest dangers of social networking comes when you mix your audiences -- for example, having friends or followers who are business associates on the same account as personal friends, family members, and so forth. Deciding what is or isn't appropriate to post can get complicated really fast in that situation. A seemingly innocuous joke that your old college buddies might enjoy a lot may fall flat or even come across as offensive to a business colleague, causing awkwardness in working together. Comments you make in response to an office mate's post on your wall could inadvertently reveal business information that those outside the company shouldn't know. A family member's teasing remark on your page about how drunk you got at Uncle Dave's birthday party could put you in a bad light if your boss reads it. And do you really want all your Internet pals to see those pictures of you as an awkward teenager that your Aunt Maggie tagged?

Then there are all those games and third-party apps that permeate some of the social networking sites. It might not matter much if you publish your progress in harvesting your crops on Farm Town, but if your favorite pastime is consuming gallons of virtual alcohol and sending rounds to your drinking buddies, that might not be the image you really want to convey to a potential future employer or client (or your mom).

4: It's not just what you post

As we touched on with Aunt Maggie's photos above, it's not just what you post yourself that can get you in trouble. Especially if you're new to social networking, you might not realize that your friends may be able to see some or all of what your other friends post on your site, as well as pictures they post on their own sites that "tag" (identify) you as one of the subjects.

Others' posts can end up embarrassing you without intending to, so keep in mind that old adage about choosing your friends wisely. And remember that it works two ways: Don't post things on a friend's site that could be an embarrassment to him/her if the other person's boss, spouse, or minister saw it.

5: A picture is worth a thousand words -- and can be a thousand times more embarrassing

Social sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow you to post much more than text. You can share pictures, videos, links, and more. This enables rich interaction, but it also provides even greater opportunities to make a faux pas that could be damaging to your career, marriage, or friendships.

Rule number one: Don't post pictures or videos of yourself in "compromising positions" -- drinking/drunk, in provocative dress (or lack thereof), showing off your (usually not visible) tattoo, hanging all over someone other than your spouse (or even if you're single, someone else's spouse), and so forth. Don't do it even if it's obvious to you that it's just a joke. Don't do it even if you think you've restricted viewing of the album to just your closest friends. Remember that even if you come to your senses tomorrow and take the picture down, someone could already have copied and saved it.

Rule number two: Don't post pictures or videos of other people without their permission or unless you're absolutely sure they don't mind -- including pictures that are not at all compromising or offensive. Some societies equate taking a photo of someone with stealing that person's soul. While most people wouldn't go that far, many folks don't like being photographed or having pictures of themselves displayed, even if you think they look great.

Also be cautious about "photo overload." Friends enjoy seeing your favorite pictures, but don't upload all 247 pictures from your trip to Maui or every single picture you take of your new grandbaby. Pick out a few of the best. And don't put 50 photos of yourself on your site and none of anyone else. That makes you look a bit narcissistic, at best.

6: Sensitive subjects can come back to bite you

Many people use status updates to post about what they're doing at a given time. Others use them more as mini journal entries, saying whatever might be on their minds regarding current events, their personal lives, etc. As in the "real world," you have to be careful when you start offering opinions, judgments, and commentaries. Venture carefully when you address the traditional hot topics: politics, sex, and religion.

You should also think twice before you report on your involvement in legal issues or post something that might have ramifications pertaining to tax matters. Your joking post on Uncle Ed's wall thanking him for taking you to dinner on his company's expense account could mark the last time he ever takes you to dinner -- or speaks to you. Your venting about something going on at work -- or even your excitement about what's happening there -- could get you in trouble or be a violation of a contractual agreement.

Be careful in responding to others' rants and raves, too. If a friend or co-worker posts about the rotten thing her husband did to her, offering your sympathy might seem like the right thing to do. But two weeks later, when they've kissed and made up, she may not remember with kindness your eager agreement about what a rotten guy he is.

7: Avoid the perils of PUI: Posting under the influence

We all know that driving under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances can lead to tragedy. Posting to social networking sites when you're inebriated can be almost as dangerous. Being under the influence of strong emotions, such as anger, fear, or grief, or suffering from lack of sleep can similarly impair your judgment and cause you to post things you otherwise wouldn't.

This is such a common phenomenon that Google's Gmail has an add-on feature (called Mail Googles, enabled through the Labs tab in the account Settings) that requires you to solve math problems before you can send email late at night on the weekends. The idea is to ensure that your cognition is not impaired and to prevent you from sending messages you might regret later.

8: Be ready to reject a friendship request or "unfriend" someone

Some people have a hard time saying no. But if you accept every friendship request you receive, you may end up feeling as if you've thrown open the doors of your home and now you have a bunch of strangers camped out in your living room, watching -- and commenting on -- everything you do and say. This all goes back to knowing your audience. It also requires that you have the courage to risk hurting some feelings by declining some offers of friendship.

Even more difficult is the decision to "unfriend" a person who's already on your friend list. It might help to know that most sites don't explicitly notify people when they've been removed from your list of friends. And if you don't mind having those people see your posts but just don't want to see theirs -- maybe they constantly rant about politics or proselytize about their religions, or maybe they just post dozens of status updates a day that are boring -- you may not need to unfriend them. Facebook, for example, allows you to "hide" a particular person's posts from your friend feed. They still see all your updates (unless, of course, they hide you, too).

9: Are you familiar with the site's settings and options?

One of the most important things you can do when you start using a social networking site is to completely familiarize yourself with how it works and the settings and options you can configure. You may be able to place people into groups and then control which of your items (wall posts, friends' posts, etc.) they can see on a group-by-group or individual basis. When you upload photos, you may be able to restrict who can see specific pictures or albums. You may be able to specify that you be notified via email of various events, such as a person replying to one of your posts or someone tagging you in a photo, so that you won't be taken by surprise. You can even prevent friends from posting to your wall altogether or use the customization options to allow only specific friends to see wall postings.

Social networking sites provide sophisticated privacy tools; take advantage of them to prevent faux pas. But remember that others who do have access can take screen shots or even digital photos of the screen and forward them to others.

10: Should you use a pseudonym?

You might be wondering if the best way to avoid all these problems is to just use a pseudonym for your social networking accounts. You could create a fake persona and say whatever you want and nobody would know it's you. Aside from the fact that this pretty much defeats the whole purpose of social networking -- getting to know people and letting them get to know you -- it is also a violation of the Terms of Service (ToS) of most social networking sites. In fact, in a famous court case, a woman in Missouri was charged with unauthorized computer access because she violated the ToS by creating a MySpace account with a false identity. (For details, see Judge tentatively acquits woman in MySpace case.) Although she was acquitted of the criminal charge, this points up the fact that the ToS is in essence a contract, and violating its terms can have legal ramifications.

Summary

Who knew there was so much to think about before ripping off a quick post to your favorite social networking site? But not stopping to consider what you're saying, and to whom you're saying it, can have serious consequences. In many ways, the Internet is forever -- and your actions there can come back to haunt you years later. Social networking can be a useful tool for both business and personal purposes, as long as you use it the right way.


Regrets?

Have you ever posted to a social networking site and later wished you hadn't? Join the discussion and share your experiences and thoughts about SN.

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

60 comments
Raymond b
Raymond b

A former coe-worcker quit there job to follow a dream, edukation or time of from work, they returnedd and appplied fo a job and waz told they is a "no-rehire", when they aksed why they is a no re-hire they waz told it waz because they did post bad remarcks obout the company and sum of the management and co werkers, they had allowed a manajer to beez in there home page. I agree that SN's shud requires people to read this page before they consider joining the SN.

Carrieapd
Carrieapd

Does anyone know if schools have any legal right to question what children and say to one another on social networking sites? Thanks

CTOS
CTOS

I agree, the more people that see your posts or "friends' posts" the more chances that you will offend someone that matters. I have been avoiding this as long as possible, now I jumped into the ring...but with caution. Some of my first posted "articles" were scanned by a good and trustworthy person, who gave me their opinion and I was amazed! Basically everything I had put there had something wrong! Amazing!

DesD
DesD

Thanks Deb. Your stuff is always good, but this is excellent.

katosm2u
katosm2u

I suspect she knew he was gonna be promoted to the chief post in the intelligence service and she did not like it. She preferred him staying at the United Nation as the Ambassador there because it is a more prestigious position.So the next step? She deliberately exposed the family photos and his job location and made it look as if it was a silly wife's unintentional show of affection 4 her husband. She is very smart or perhaps too smart because now he is gonna lose both the ambassadorship and the new spy chief job!Poor fellow!

Mullet4244
Mullet4244

Something else to think about - SN sites are useful sites for people who are deaf or have a disability of one kind or another. But at the same time, I agree with all of the 10 points in the article - regardless of your reason for going on a SN site, be very discriminate about your interactions, who you interact with and who you allow into your SN site. I don't have ANY of my workmates on my site, nor do I connect to their site. I refuse to accept as "friends" anyone I don't know, even if they are deaf(my issue) - and it's amazing how many are girls who send a provocative pose with their request. Uhhhh... no thanks. The only people I accept are those I already know or if they are a friend of a friend - and I have actually met them in real life. AND they are also people I have a connection with. I observe more than I participate in them. My 2c worth.

Jango7777
Jango7777

When something is invented, and if there is way to use it for good and for bad, expect things to doom any day or at least expect the threats of getting doomed. Nuclear power - can be used for good and for bad. See the result of such invention. Financial system - the freedom it allowed, resulted in the economic recession. The good people always lag behind the bad ones. The good ones catch the bad ones only after the bad has done some damage. Madoff (an example) - where on the earth everyone else were when he was making the scheme and operating it? Now everyone want to cut him into pieces, what good will it do? The inventors of the SN sites - what else is their objective except making money for themselves? Well, when there are buyers, why won't the sellers keep selling. Who buys from them, none of their business. How people use their product, none of their business. They know how to legally be safe and protect themselves from the legal system. End result - none of their business as long as they make money. Government or anybody wouldn't care until it becomes tax payers burden. Internet led to cyberspace to virtual life. when people take their lives to the virtual world, they start living a virtual life. The human touch in human lives is going away. Government is taking (taken) steps to regulate the use of nuclear power, financial system, etc... ONLY after seeing the damages. THEY BETTER DO IT FOR INTERNET AS WELL BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. See the criminal cases in which craigslist had a role. Craigslist is a great invention.. but, did anyone regulate the use of it? Will millions of people using it to sell and buy stuff compensate the loss of lives? yeah.. who cares until one of their dears and nears loose their life. An identity for a person in the virtual world must be like an id in the real world.. like a Photo ID, drivers license, bank account, social security number.. you just can't get it by checking some check boxes and clicking some buttons on your own. Do not allow anything that gives way for people with bad intentions to gain from it. Better be safe than sorry. We all lived happily even before the invention of SN sites, and even internet. Actually people lived longer before all the inventions! We need to improve our living, but not allow anything that risks the lives.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

The first rule, "1: Where are you and what are you here for?" is where that falls under. People use websites to inform, entertain, or to persuade. News sites, personal calendars, diaries, etc all are used to inform. Sites with cartoons, stories, jokes, stunts, videos, skits are all used for entertainment. Sites trying to sell something either a product, a service, or convincing people to vote or do something are all instances of persuasion. Sites often combine purposes. Information goes hand in hand with persuasion. Information can be entertaining. The key is to organize your material in a pleasant, consistent, and logical manner. If your site doesn't acheive it's purpose, it's not a good site.

parnote
parnote

"Everybody who?s anybody has at least dabbled in it" Are you kidding?? Many successful people have purposely stayed away from social networking sites. I tend to call them "sheeple" sites, that people flock to because everyone else is doing it. Yep ... just like sheep, hence turning them into "sheeple." If I were considering someone for a job, I would take a dim view of an applicant who was knee deep into the social networking scene. And it's not because I'd be fearful that they'd do their social networking on MY time (I can block those sites). It's because such "sheeple" activity shows a serious lack of independence, free thought, and creativity. This person would rather "run with a crowd" than do something original. New ideas come much more readily from those who are independent, creative, free thinkers.

tomofumi
tomofumi

if you post something that you think only your close friend can access, it may end up being leaked out to public due to your friend's PC is infected and their identity is being stolen...

lindynanny13
lindynanny13

I never gave this as much thought as it obviously deserves. I'm going to do some serious backtracking. Thank you, Linda Rousay

LarryD4
LarryD4

I have a Facebook account and its primary purpose is to communicate with family. Its secondary purpose is communicate with friends. It's locked down so the only people who can see my info are my firends and yes I have rejected quite a few friend requests. The most bizzare request I received was from a girl I dated in high school. She dumped me the day before the prom and I never heard from her again. She keeps making a firend request and I keep denying it. Its wierd how some people just don't get it.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Never post while you're buzzed from drinking, or otherwise high. What may seem like a good idea when you're posting may not look right once you're straight and sober when it could already be too late.

Bizzo
Bizzo

Social Networking sites have no place in business, otherwise they'd be called Business Networking sites, like Linkedin, surely? Yes, I use FaceBook, and so do my friends that live miles away that I only see a couple of times a year. I have recently restricted access to my profile (friends only), after reading all these horror stories. We use FaceBook for pictures and comments, not much else. Why would I have a business colleague on a friend list?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

First of all, any employer that looked to sociel networking sites before, during or hiring as a method of judgement of a potential or existing employee is an absolute idiot. 100% not worth working for. So therefore any potential clients that see my post here, [b]DO NOT CALL ME BACK I DO NOT WANT TO WORK FOR YOU. I can't type worth a damn and think you are an idiot.[/b] Seriously, it illustrates an idiot with no business conducting business, who is simply out to play his very own home game of big brother. "Thrrrrree PM, Oz is in the Garden with some of the house me-ates." "Two of the house me-ates are in the kitchen talking about JD." (you guys gotta hear BB-UK it's freakin' hilarious and I normally HATE shows like that. ) I would work with/for an employer who used sites like TR to voice personal opinions though, who cares? Personal opinions, political opinions and opinions in general have no impact on my abilty to market and effectively sell your product, who gives a toss, just watch out for the slander and all will be fine. I can only assume that employers here will start trying that too, they always cowtow to their US parent companies even thougnh often illegal here. But it will soon be heard by a SCJ and the rules set straight again, always seems to work that way, and in the employees favour. There's no way such descrimination would stand here, after becoming a more common issue in the courts, they'd shut it down pretty fast. If it was done secretly, behind the scenes with a simple rejection of application, I wouldn't care either, we still have enough employment here that I can still pick and choose, even though many companies (mostly US based) are tightening their belts in fear of tomorrow.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Yeah, I know, our privacy is going to hell, but nonetheless, I'm not going to accelerate the process.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Say your child posts he's going to shoot up the school on Columbine Anniversary Day. The school authorities (or anyone else who trips over it) can report it to LEAs and that they investigate. If this is more than a theoretical question, I would suggest contacting a legal expert directly.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

People who don't, aren't able to, get out very much. Not everybody has a job to go to or the desire to waste gas just to mingle with the crowd at the local Tim Horton's. SN sites can be a satisfactory substitute.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Some of us forget that not everyone on the Internet has the same physical capabilities. Don't hesitate to bring it to our attention when we do.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

How do you feel about the First Amendment? Because if you think the Internet is going to cause all these problems, wait until you run into a far older proven troublemaker we call, "Freedom of Speech".

paladin2
paladin2

Having been on planet Earth since these thing sprung up I just assumed they were for teen ager and other adolescents keeping up on the gossip and things that amuse and attract yet unformed personalities. It's made me realize that adolescents lasts into the 50s for many in the U.S. I remember 3 hour phone calls with my 'steady girl' in high school and all the silly things we wasted time talking about, and the fact that that time period is stalled over generations of supposed adults is pathetic. I've lived outside the U.S. for 15 years and never even took the time to find out anything about these sites when a friend died and her husband asked if someone he knew in the states could contact me to talk about photos I might have of my dead friend. The mail came as an 'invitation' to see Jennifers 'wall' on Face book and I clicked tha appropiate boxes you needed to check to see the message. Well, in the clicking I must have given them permission to go through my contacts list in my email and sent an invitation from "me" to all of the hundred or so names in my contacts list. What really surprised me was that most of them had facebook pages already! Is this what adult social interaction has come too? Well I got Jennifer to quit sending 'wall' postings and told her we have email and skype so we can talk face to face. I've never entered my 'account' since I went to see the photos but am still getting letters from people I've mostly never heard of, wanting to be my 'friend'. Mom told me long ago that "if you have one true friend in your life then you have one more than most people". The short tour of Facebook was a sorry look at what has happened to the culture, if you can call it that, up there. Most people living in towns don't know their neighbors but send and talk to strangers for hours and hours. I've seen it. Living in Costa Rica I get lots of guests from the States and the last one was a retired Cop who, until I forbade him to use my computer to troll 'social' networking crap and the actual dating services I found in my history, he would stay glued to my computer while his vacation passed and not once went up to the active volcano outside town just to watch the incredible spectacle of it, nor the rainforest that surrounds my home or anything. Facebook and the like are NOT social interaction. They, IMHO are teen aged cliques for a group of people to gossip or god know what all. I can understand a business going that route, lots of free advertising but an individual that needs such a sophomoric ego wall is still not what I consider an adult. My overall opinion is not as harsh as this comment makes it sound but it does seem pathetic watching people 'interact' with probably highly edited story of someones elses life, a look at their avatar and what else? Vacation photos? There's lots of better ways to show them to who you want and no one else. Picasa photo albums is a good esample. Turn the damn thing off and head down to your local tavern, church or model plane club or whatever you get off on and actually meet real live people for pitys sake! It is equally sad and pathetic that so many must be so lonely and so empty they need to spill to the whole world.

Claptrap1
Claptrap1

Do you take a dim view of someone who relaxes in front of television regularly? After all, that is a big "sheeple" activity as you can get and you can sit there without as much as having to use your brain to type a response or a comment. "Everyone" is doing it and I am often left out of the loop because I don't. I know many independent free thinkers in SN sites (yes, I have tried a few). Some of the profilic posters are also high flyers in their career world AND they can manage busy social lives as well as network with other people... Personally I use NS sites because: 1) I am either too busy to see them all on regular basis: my hobby - horror of horrors - is a sheeple one: dancing, means being able to co-operate with strangers and mixing with folks from all walks of life. 2) they live too far away 3) I am often working when others have free time and vice versa, so it's not so easy to pick up that phone. 4) Messages from friends have not got lost amongst junk mail - I actually use the personal messaging service more than public posts on friend's page. 5) Photos, personal information like what's going on etc are already organised without me having to save them into my pc or going through emails to find the rigt info. On occasion I have actually made contacts via pure social networking that have been benenficial to me, both personally or work wise, though that is of course rare because many visit social networks, as opposed to business networks, to relax and get away from work. The thing to remember is that anything posted into someone's website or "wall" is public so all my posts are of that nature. Yes, my friends could reveal something I said in the personal message but then they would do that anyway, regardless of the medium. You wouldn't tell secrets or anything important to someone like that in real life, would you? I think it is worth of trying a few sites to see if any can fulfil your requirement and then make the site work for you, as opposed to the other way round. Treat social netowrking as a (public) communication tool and don't get emotionally sucked in.

john3347
john3347

I have been thinking how to say, "just stay off the sheeple sites". parnote said it more eloquently than I could have. I joined Yahoo 360 one time (remember that one?) with actual family members, sons, nephews and nieces, etc. That lasted a few months 'til we realized that if one of us had something to say, we could just pick up the telephone and call or send an email. Other than that, "social networking" is just for the insecure who have no audience and nothing to say but want to be noticed. If I were still building bicycles and hiring builders and someone sent me a resume' full of "texting shorthand" or used their twitter or facebook account as a reference, they would not have been hired.

James Jelinek
James Jelinek

I really think your point of view holds some serious weight. I've had this strange sense of disconnection when I wasn't involved in the social networking sites. However once I get involved, I realize it's a pure time suck when I could be learning something new, or god forbid getting things done. No matter what anyone thinks, employers and the public do judge based on what they perceive. It's important for us all to think about that. I'm guilty of not doing so and hope to change my ways. I think I will create a few accounts to post things I find useful or updates on my current projects/etc. It's a very useful marketing tool for the consultant, but like anything else it's just a tool nothing more.

scurry
scurry

Being a successful professional, I also wonder why many of my friends and co-workers participate in this form of personal promotion through social media. FYI "sheeple", you're not celebrities and you're embarrassing yourselves. Are sheeple that desperate for validation and acceptance in our society. It's like the other new trend I see at bars and clubs... people (sheeple) just staring down at there phones in the middle of the dance floor instead of ACTUALLY socializing. What is happening to American human culture? All these forms of communication should not be a replacement for actually speaking with someone or god forbid, actually writing a letter.

richard.beebe
richard.beebe

You've got a very black & white view of this. Makes me think you haven't actually tried any of them. Just because people are flocking to something, doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. And a true independent, creative thinker knows the value of exploring existing ideas, trends and practices. Personally, via an SN site, I have gotten work, re-connected with long-lost friends, arranged parties, maintained contact while traveling, diagnosed a disease (really), gotten some invaluable new-product advice (and probably saved my company a bunch of money), and found a new employee. All while keeping up with my normal busy schedule. I agree with the points Deb Shinder made in this list--you do have to be careful. But SNs can be, I think, an extremely valuable communication tool. And to just dismiss them as brainless sites for sheeple is very narrow-minded.

Richard-HK
Richard-HK

While the wide existence of viruses and bots infecting others' computeres through SN sites seems to get a lot of visibility, things get passed on even when the friend's (??) computer isn't infected. Your friend picks up something from your locked down SN page, thinks it is hilarious/embarrassing/etc. and how much all of his/her friends will enjoy the laugh, copies the stuff over to another SN page that isn't locked down or attaches something to an email, and you are instantly splashed across the web even though you thought you'd protected yourself. Hasn't happened to me yet through SN, as far as I know, but have heard of it happening to others. Did have it happen in a business context. Sent internal email critical of a potential new client's selection decision for a project. The comment was intended only for communication within the project group. One of the others who had responsibility to inquire about the basis for the client's decision took the easy way out and forwarded the email intact, rather than sending a separate email with only the relevant questions. Needless to say, I won't ever be proposing services to that client again. Nor will I ever be communicating with the guy who passed on the email. I wasn't careful and he was clueless. Won't make either mistake again (I hope). Be concerned about your friends' computers, but be careful about the people you choose for "friends".

brian
brian

Sounds pretty bad to "never hear from her again." Did she leave town, or what? Did you play it out from her point of view, especially since you're (hopefully) older now? She could have been getting lots of pressure about what could happen by being with you on prom night - and not just from you I might add. Here's my prom story - My driver's license test was on the day before the prom, a Friday the 13th, and I passed (and had the sign off from the tester.) My parents refused to let me drive until I had the final license in hand. My brother drove us instead. What a nightmare he was! He didn't even suggest I just drop him off somewhere along the way, and pick him up later to make it look good for my parents, oh no... He *had* to drive. Going there, he made some comments that I didn't appreciate at all. When he picked us up, it was even worse. He made sexually suggestive comments to my date, which put me in a totally awkward position. I wanted to toss my brother out of the car. He absolutely ruined my evening. My driver's license arrived at the house on Monday in the mail. It certainly made me see red. However, irony was not finished with me quite yet. I found out that my prom date had had a crush on my brother for years. They got MARRIED about a year after the prom. Their lives did not mesh well at all, and it lasted only a few years. I saw that train wreck of a relationship and realized that could have been mine. I looked at Friday the 13th's as "good luck days" ever since.

Henriquez
Henriquez

Never write a response when you're upset until 24 hours have passed. Applies to posting just as much. First learned this in writing notes on the fridge when living with roommates. :) It has saved me untold trouble. I still write notes after the 24 hours, but they're Very Different notes. Excellent post, thanks.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Never get buzzed or high; then you don't have to worry about what you might have posted under those conditions.

JuliaX111
JuliaX111

heaven forbid you might actually have a friend at work.... scary thought.

desirawson
desirawson

This article should be a pre-requisite to anyone ever joining an SN!!!! It is so annoying when people are "chatting" on their wall and all of your friends/family from age 16 (the chatters) to 80 have it pop up on theirs too (not to mention Farmville and all those other "games" that no one wants to know how you need to feed a cow or that you took a quiz and you're some fictional character). I could go on and on about tagging but I'll stop ranting for everyone's sake. Now I just use FB for backing up pictures and set the security to myself only!

battery_acid_h
battery_acid_h

No Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or other networking has so far caught my fancy, frankly I am old fashioned and see it as a possible hunting ground for paedophiles and other pervs!

fatman65535
fatman65535

I had crested profiles on Classmates and Reunion. After hearing about the potential privacy issues, I deleted them. You offer a good suggestion, I only wish I had heard it earlier.

GrumpyGGA
GrumpyGGA

This is not very original. But you expressed my thoughts precisely. People always pontificate about the need for privacy -- but you simply cannot have it both ways!

wstrick
wstrick

If you don't create an account in your name then anyone can create an account in your name and post what ever they wish. Think about that for a minute.

James Jelinek
James Jelinek

I go back and forth with this topic daily. Part of me wants to be social on the Interweb, chat with friends, express myself (yes, that sometimes mean off the wall, crazy BS posts that would get me in trouble), and connect with others for both work and personal reasons. So what do I do? I delete my Twitter/Tumblr almost daily, switch user names, etc in a poor display of indecisiveness. The end result is, I totally lose my audience and the original reason why I came her. After thinking about all of this, I think the best weapon is to just "BE YOURSELF", but exercise caution. Before you Tweet/Post, re-read your content, then re-read it again. The old 5-minute cool off rule applies here. If it still reads well, shoot it out. I don't really think people are going to miss much if you delay a few moments. Just my .02c.... Now off to delete my Twitter account again :)

b4real
b4real

The hard part is that my common sense inventory may not be as good as others. I use this judgement - pretend you are speaking it out loud and your wife, boss and co-workers are in earshot.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I know a number of elderly people (as an example) who are for the most part hobbled to their homes. They're lonely, their family in far away places, their friends dead or equally hobbled. They'd be happier if they were involved with people in some way, and SN sites can give them that to some degree.

derekball614
derekball614

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geekGirlFri
geekGirlFri

... in the sense of how sad it is that some folk let SN sites become the end-all/be-all of their lives. I agree that SN sites shouldn't replace relationships with living, breathing human beings and the natural world we live in. IMHO, when people use SN sites this way, it's a symptom of a problem, not the cause. SN sites are only tools. If someone uses a hammer to hurt another person (or themselves), it wouldn't make sense to blame the hammer.

geekGirlFri
geekGirlFri

Sadly, this is true in far too many cases, and the younger the demographic, the more desperate they are. Society no longer has a coherent sense of self (no matter what you do, it's OK, right?), but when there are no parameters & guidelines, no "right" way to think, say, or do anything, it leaves most people in a state of unease. People want to know that they are doing things "right," so when there's no clear "right," or if "right" keeps changing, a drive emerges to constantly seek validation.

Geek Gurl
Geek Gurl

I also believe that personal communication is a far better choice than self-aggrandization on a SN platform. I've never been considered a "sheeple". Thinking outside the "pidgeon hole" has not always made me popular, but it has enabled me to find innovative solutions to various challenges. I'll forego being a "sheeple" thanks.

geekGirlFri
geekGirlFri

I'd "digg" or "fave" this, but since I can't, I'm replying. Kudos for your sensible, middle-of-the-road post. When cars, radios, TV, the Internet (shall I go on?) first became widely embraced, I'm sure there were some who thought "the masses/sheeple" were just mindlessly flocking to another trend, and I'm sure they weren't entirely incorrect. Not all trends are good just because "everyone's doing it," but if I wanted to know if a trend was worth it, I'd at least listen to others that were meaningfully involved before deciding whether or not to dismiss it.

ebsfrmr
ebsfrmr

It seems to me also that a cursory out of hand dismissal of the SN trend could be short sighted. There are now marketers claiming how important it is for businesses to tap into the stunning number of people (call them sheeple, if you must) taking part in SN sites. This offers a great inexpensive way to get your message out. Think about newpaper advertising and how expensive it is compared to setting up a Facebook Fan Page, or Twitter account...then look at the subscribership numbers and statistics. It is said the Market will punish those who do not improve efficiency and lower costs. We might actually be in a transformational time. The economy is driving businesses and consumers to look for easier and less expensive ways to do commerce. Any business which depends on customer relationships needs to look closely at this segment of the Internet.

OnTheRopes
OnTheRopes

Used to. I've posted to TR with a beer buzz on more than once. I don't care what people do on their own time in the privacy of their homes. Just don't post while stoned, drunk and I'll add, hungover. If I had a lot more money I'd be a financial backer of NORML and LEAP.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Just don't register with the SN sites in the first place. Problem solved leaving time to get buzzed or high!

James Jelinek
James Jelinek

People can easily create an account under another moniker that is similar to your own name and claim to be you. Then you are stuck with the process of having to prove your identity. I'm not sure about you, but I do my best to stay under the radar and really don't have a need to become the next Perez Hilton. I maintain a Twitter/Tumblr for close friends and the like, but I sit down and think about my posts carefully before blasting out useless banter. Social Networking can be very powerful both in negative and positive facets. It's up to the individual to use the responsibly, IMO.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

of things I'm not going to worry about. I refuse to chase from one site to the next, creating accounts I'll never use on the off chance someone else may do so, possibly someone who happens to have the same name and no malicious intent.

tdarmond
tdarmond

I consider myself a communicator and I use Facebook as a tool for my exclusive group of friends and family. Being respectful and not throwing out opinions regarding politics or religion keep me out of hot water. Since I don't drink or get high, I don't have to worry about making mistakes I'll regret later. Above all... I am not a slave to this form of communication. Face to face communication is the best... pick up the telephone, email or send a letter or card. I will not forget my humanity or my many choices of communication. My best advice... Be nice. I've never had any regrets being polite.

ebsfrmr
ebsfrmr

Thanks for the Kudo. Indeed, it is important to evaluate the ROI on any new direction, be it hardware, software, etc. It all takes time to explore, organize, and finally adopt should the experience prove beneficial. This world has many types of personalities, some are eager to try anything new for the fun of it. Others like to keep their lives steady and controlled. Most are somewhere in between. I am amazed at the difference in the expectations our society places on us now, compared to even ten or twenty years ago. Just try telling someone you do not have an email account, voice mail, or at least a fax number. What do they say when you ask them to simply mail everything to you? Most likely something about "dark ages"... Remember how long ago, many eagerly set up Juno email accounts, because it was so much easier to stay in contact with family and friends all around the world? Next, came Prodigy, Compuserve, and AOL services once people understood the value of dialing into BBS systems. These trends opened a way to the Internet for the masses. Each step along the way to our present SN sites has forged a richer, easier to navigate, and dynamic way for people to interact for personal, cultural and business purposes. We are, by and large, very relational creatures, who seem drawn to enjoying communication in many different ways and will gather together using a variety of creative methods (music, art, literature, blogs, meetings, TV, telecommunications, Internet, etc). Businesses in general are often slow in adopting these new communication ideas. Because first, enough people need to be using the technology or services to be cost/time effective. Next, it takes a willingness to expand from the habits of old. Finally, proof needs to be shown that this new idea can be helpful in progressing business interests further. To be sure, businesses and our society will have to setup etiquette rules for SN, much like they have for cell phones and such. But, the fact remains our world is much larger than ever before. For instance, on-line gamers meet and cooperate together in virtual worlds with people all over the globe from Japan, Italy, etc. Even though I don't participate, I can't help but think it is an interesting opportunity to learn about other cultures. And to think many of our younger generation are deeply involved in such activities, seems possible that will have an impact on future international relations and commerce. How astounding to live in a world with such a rich mix of freely shared ideas and outlooks on life. And at the same time to be able to easily find others with similar interests, such as all of us who follow TechRepublic--is this not a type of social networking as well? Personally, I have benefited greatly from the information found in articles and from those who graciously take time to add to the discussions. As I look back historically, it is natural to assume this new SN trend has the legs to shape how we conduct business, at least in part. The trick is to study the subject, evaluate the potential power, and determine if it makes sense to implement now, or at a later time. No one wants to be in the position of the newspaper industry who now cries foul, saying that people won't pay for their news, when they were actually quite short-sighted. Didn't they have years to understand how the Internet was changing our lives. It seems to me, they were mostly a compilation service with a few editors and local journalists on staff. But basically they pulled together news from the newswires, bundled up coupon offers, comics, stock and weather information, provided classified advertising services, and finally offered a delivery service. It amazes me they could not see the reality of the impact the Internet delivery service would have on their business prospects. First, all the news services available to Internet subscribers is much broader than they could provide in printed form and it is search-able, archive-able, and easily accessible 24/7. No more waiting for the paper to arrive sometime after six in the morning. How nice to not have to dig under the car or bushes. No more rain soaked bundle, either. Not to mention, when you are done reading your news you can simply close down your browser window--no lugging paper bundles to dumpsters...

b4real
b4real

Marketing reasons for organizations - there can be plenty of situations where you need a presense in the SN world.

mikeah21
mikeah21

Don't get buzzed and/or post to SN sites. Problems solved!

tdarmond
tdarmond

Yes, I post in Facebook, but only to an exclusive group of friends and family. I am part of a community theater group and thespians tend to bond after many rehearsals and successful plays. We part and go our separate ways, but are still active in plays in various communities. Facebook is a lovely way to keep in touch with these talented folks and to find out where their next performance is so that we can attend and support them as audience members. My family is supportive as well so it's a win-win arrangement. I used to post to Xanga, but stopped after one person kept ranting her hostile political views. I'm not about ranting or name calling. I'm about solutions and common sense. I respect everyone's opinion, but not when they grow hostile and insulting, so I stopped blogging on that site and told my friends there why in a calm and matter-of-fact way. The only person who didn't understand was the hostile political blogger. That person is an in-law of an in-law who has gone through some tough physical problems, so I had been very patient with her. I finally had enough when the rantings seemed to come sweeping in over and over. Yes, I could have blocked her, but the blog was becoming too involved and it was time to go. When it's not fun anymore...walk away. It's an ok thing to do. I have my own art column in my town's local newspaper which appears once a month, so I suppose I'm not the average blogger. I'm a "feel good" writer and hopefully uplifting to those who choose to read what I have to say. We have fairly negative opinions in our society and the ease of technical communication via email and texting has made our population very cynical and free to say whatever is on our minds without thinking of the consequences of who they might hurt or offend. That includes posting nude or suggestive photos of someone or even of themselves. God bless America and our right to free speech, but some take it to the extreme and end up making what could be a positive thing into a disgusting gesture that has great potential to hurt people. I'm really happy with my Facebook, but that is because I'm in control of it. When I feel I'm not, that's when I'll stop. Again, it boils down to simply being nice. I wouldn't say anything in a blog or newspaper column I wouldn't say to someone's face and that would still be ok, because I'd still keep my dignity and I'd respect who ever would be reading or listening to me. That's not tip-toeing around controversy either! There is an art to communication. Thank you for your kind comment.

b4real
b4real

Thanks, tdarmond. Refreshing comments. Do you find yourself partipating in any Social Networking, however?

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