Social networking Web sites pose dangers to the unassuming
October 2, 2006 —
You may have heard the phrase "too much information," or TMI. In middle school and high school, someone said "TMI!" if someone else revealed more information then they should've on a particular subject. Now, TMI can be used to refer to the amount of information that we reveal about ourselves on the Web.
Facebook and MySpace are the most popular Web sites for people to create their own little profiles. Facebook is primarily used by college students, but now non-college students have access. For the most part, Facebook profiles can only be viewed by those you are friends with or by those who attend the same university.
On the other hand, MySpace can be used by anyone with an e-mail address, and anyone can view your profile. Both sites have privacy settings that allow users to limit who can view their profiles.
Many view their Facebook and/or MySpace profiles as places to express themselves. Users can put contact information, personal interests, and photos of themselves in their profiles. They can also join or create groups that are based on anything, from favorite TV shows, to political views and to common likes and dislikes. While users may think that what they post on these sites may be harmless, some of the content could come back to haunt them.
In the Aug. 21 issue of Newsweek, there was an article about a college student who got expelled for starting a student petition on Facebook to get a campus police guard fired. Just think, one "stupid" action on Facebook cost this student a degree at a college that he carefully chose to attend. This is just one example of the potential trouble one could get in for what they post on these Web sites.
To my knowledge, SVSU doesn't patrol these sites, but that doesn't mean they won't in the future. Anyone with a campus e-mail address could gain access to Facebook.
This means that anyone with an @svsu.edu e-mail account can view your profile unless you make it completely private. According to the same Newsweek issue, only around 17 percent of users change their privacy settings.
The first point that I'm trying to make is this: don't have any incriminating pictures or postings in your Facebook or MySpace profiles.
I have read and heard that employers are using Myspace to double-check their applicants. It could be just a matter of time before Facebook allows employers the same opportunity. Just think, one tacky picture could cost you that great-paying job or that career-starting internship.
The second point that I'm trying to make is this: don't reveal too much information about yourself in your profiles.
I have heard this disclaimer from my dad and other people many times. So now, I'm strongly cautioning Facebook and MySpace users to be careful about posting where people can find you. This includes things such as your class schedule, place of employment, and campus and home addresses. This type of information could be just what stalkers could be looking for.
I'm not saying that if you post this information you will be stalked, I'm just warning Facebook and MySpace users to be careful if you do post this information, be very aware of who can view it.
I'm not trying to convey the message that Facebook and MySpace are bad sites and that no one should use them. I have profiles on both Facebook and Myspace. I view the sites as a way to stay in touch with friends, family, former classmates, and with people that I met while on my internship with the Disney College Program. On Facebook, I like posting messages on my cousin's wall and seeing how she's enjoying her first year of college. I also like sharing pictures with my friends. With regards to MySpace, I only use it to keep in touch with people who don't have Facebook accounts.
The next time you log on to fiddle with your Facebook or MySpace profiles, make a conscious effort to check the information that you have posted by asking yourself: "Do I really want the world to know this about me?”