Before we review the dangers of social networking sites, let's review social networking benefits.
When people first find about a new social network, they may be excited about joining, they start updating profiles, posting information and inviting their circle of friends to join. Their excitement is fueled by the media adding hype about the latest online social networking site. If you chose not to join, but your friends do join, they start sending you invitations to join as well.
You may cave in and join a social network or two... or three; the advantages of social networking may lead you to ignore the potential dangers. Advantages such as being able to stay in touch with people you care about, being able to share information, news, photos, video clips with the various groups that you belong to.
Still, you hesitate to join because you know the dangers of social networking sites may overshadow the benefits. What exactly are those dangers?
The list may grow as people continue to use social networking sites in unpredictable ways and technology continues to make it possible to do so.
Privacy Issues When you post information on a social networking site, it’s quite likely you will go with the default of having all your contacts see what you post. Over time, your privacy is eroded by your own postings. This loss of privacy is somewhat inevitable, whether you use social networks or not. Social networks just accelerate this process.
Hacking and Password Finding Even when you take measures to make your information available to only a few people that are very close to you, these measures can be bypassed. There are websites and software that help people find passwords for popular websites or just plain hack them.
Identity Theft Over time, you disclose all kinds of information in a social networking site. Your birth date, your family data, your occupation, your book preferences, your movie preferences, the travel you have done, the people you work with, the place where you live and other information about yourself. Someone can piece together all this information to steal your identify and create a credible alter you.
Internet Addiction Social Networking Sites can be very addicting, they are easy to use, they open a window to a whole world of information that wasn't available before.
Social networking websites give you the tools to let the world know about you, and who you are. You may get caught up in visiting the social sites more often and spending enormous amounts of time checking out what others are doing and posting your own deeds. You may waste time at work and you may spend less face time with family and friends.
Caught on camera Imagine this scenario: You attended a party, drank one too many drinks and hugged one person you shouldn't have. Next thing you know, you see the pictures of your indiscretions posted on a social networking page of one of the people that attended the party.
Job Background Check Issues More and more, recruiters and HR staff are using social networking sites to complete background checks for job candidates.
You may be a student, or an employee happy in your current job. You may not be contemplating job hunting any time soon. You don’t worry about recruiters and HR staff looking through your social networking pages because you are not currently in the job market.
Your entries in today's social networking sites may haunt you in the future, when you enter the job market. Your entries may seem temporary because you can delete them if you chose. However, others (friends or even strangers) that saw the entries may have printed or saved a copy of your pictures, posts, and videos, and re-post them on their pages.
Potential problems at place of employment You may post what you see as harmless information about your coworkers or your boss, but they may beg to differ.
You could end up divulging confidential information or creating a legal liability for yourself or the company where you work.
You could post information about you that you think is personal, not job related. However, if you have a high profile position, you are not really free to be yourself in a social networking site. Unless, of course, your true self aligns beautifully with the company culture and image.
Up until joining an online social network, you may have kept your personal life separated from your work life, but your activity in a social networking site will bring these two lives together.
You can still enjoy the great advantages of social networking if you use social networking sites with skill and caution.
Use common sense about the information you will share with others, be aware that social events can land you in a web page at any time.
Talk with your children about this, or monitor their activity so they don’t grow to regret the information they posted on their social networking pages.
Are internet social networks good or bad? You are the only person that can decide that for yourself, your family and your work.