Social networks on the web can have many benefits. They can help you stay current with the doings of your friends and family. For many NCSSMers, they can be helpful in coping with missing friends in the home town, and can help combat homesickness for new juniors.
However, a little sensible caution is in order when using them. If you observe a few simple guidelines, you can get the benefits of using social networks and avoid unpleasantness or danger.
Here we present a quick guide to using social networks on the web. Since Facebook is the most popular social network here at NCSSM, we will focus on it. Using social networks well can provide you with contacts and help you to maintain friendships and contact with your family as you progress through your education and career. You can also find groups that cater to interests in the arts, sciences, technology and other interesting things.
Exercising Sensible Caution Disclosing private information or revealing such things as your sexual fantasies can attract the attention of individuals who may harass or threaten you. This is a genuine danger. There are people who prowl social networks looking for people to victimize. Exercising a little savvy can greatly diminish this risk.
A good acid test for the question, "Should I really post this?" is to ask, "Do I want this to appear in my local käseblatt? Would I want my neighbor up the street to know it?" Yeah, acing a Miller or Kolena test is fodder for posting. Venting about the disgusting dissections in Bio is fine, as is ruing ever signing up for Morrison's computer science class. The fact that you are very depressed because something is going wrong at school or home is not. This could attract the attention of someone with unwholesome intent who might try to exploit your emotional vulnerability.
One smart way to use a social network is to use it as a means of publicly hailing your friends. Imagine you are standing in the lobby of a crowded hotel. You see your long-lost friend Felix Finkelstein in the lobby. You call over to him, get his attention, and then sit down to have a chat. You wouldn't shout personal information like your cell phone number or your address across the room. You hail him in the room, then exchange information in private forum, if you so wish.
Here are some things not to put on your social network page.
- Do not post your phone number or cell number. You do not need creepy phone calls from strangers with possibly evil intent.
- Do not post suggestive images of yourself or your friends. These can come back to haunt you! Remember, web users can right-click on an image in a browser window and download it to their permanent files.
- Do not post your home address or dorm room. You don't want some creepo showing up on your doorstep or awaiting you outside your dorm.
- Do not publicly announce your family is going out of town. There are people who monitor Facebook for such things and then rob houses in your absence. It is best to report on a trip after you return.
- Do a little due diligence on Facebook privacy settings. You can minimize the availability of personal information to the entire world. Only place very basic information where it can be seen by everyone.
Facebook provides a facility for people to send you private messages; make use of this. Someone who wants to contact you can leave you a message and you can, if you wish, respond and supply your email or other contact information as you see fit. This gives you a buffer of safety from people you do not know.
If someone sends you messages that make you uncomfortable, remember you can block or report that person. If you feel harassed or pursued, block the person doing it; report it to the authorities and to school officials if you feel you are in real danger.
The FTC has a site with some useful information and links on this subject. It is well worth a visit.
By observing a few simple rules, social networks can provide an excellent means for you to stay connected with your friends and family who are likely scattered everywhere. Happy Facebooking!