Social networking began as a young person’s phenomenon. Initially, high school and college students dominated Facebook and MySpace, creating profiles as a way to interact with their old and new friends. The social networking craze has now spread well beyond the younger generation, with people of all ages recognizing the benefits of joining online communities.
Indeed, socially networking has many attributes: Facebook is a great way to stay connected with family and friends; the professional site Linked In helps people network with contacts; Facebook and Twitter allow businesses large and small to connect to their customers like never before. However, by nature social networking sites encourage the instantaneous sharing of uncensored information. Such a medium is not without problems.
As a college instructor, surrounded by a demographic (18 to 22-year-olds) for whom social networking is a dominant communication medium, I have caught wind of numerous social networking blunders—situations where people get themselves into trouble by posting inappropriate information and photos. Here are a few of the social networking mistakes I’ve heard of recently:
• A young woman drank too much at a party. Her Facebook “friends” posted comprising photos of her on their walls. The photos led to embarrassing and even harassing comments.
• People post photos of themselves in revealing clothing, seemingly not caring about the image they are portraying.
• People provide too much private information on their profiles (like telephone numbers and addresses). Some even announce when they are leaving on vacation, letting potentially hundreds of others know when they will be away from their homes.
• Social networking sites have become a place to complain about one’s job, expose one’s like and dislikes, and unfortunately and occasionally, a place for some to leave distasteful and offensive comments.
• People become “friends” with people they do not know well, sharing personal information with acquaintances or people they have only just met.
Facebook has privacy settings, but if not applied by the user, one’s information could be viewed by anyone, including current or potential employers. Social networking encourages people to share information; unfortunately, there are far too many people sharing too much information.
### Erika Weisensee, a writer and native Oregonian, lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.