Are you keeping your private life private and under control?

When I was studying, the big thing about the Internet was Napster and downloading pretty much whatever music you wanted for free, albeit very illegally. It didn’t stop half the computer centre at any given moment from being awash with peer-to-peer file sharers.A few years later and now half the computer centre is in the middle of some form of social networking (Facebook, MySpace, et al.). While the music downloading was a legally questionable activity, the social networking is absolutely above board…but you should still question it. Check out my ‘4 Rs’…

Too Many Social Networks (photo by mattkeefe)

THE 4 Rs

  • R you spending too much time updating your profile and sending messages?

  • R your privacy settings not switched to the max?

  • R you no longer in control of your own life?

  • R you aware of the trouble you can inadvertently get into if you’re not careful?

Getting Results… 

TIME ONLINE

Planning your real life online can lead to the danger of spending too much time in the social networking world. In no time, your real life IS the online community.

When time begins to slip away and you’re getting very little done, it’s time to face up to facts and limit your time. Sometimes it’s quicker to go down the old-fashioned route of phone calls and (shock, horror!) face-to-face conversations.

Over time, I’ve learned that people take the plans a lot more seriously when dealt with over the phone and in person. There’s something about the casual internet invite that feels somewhat throwaway. The organiser might not feel that way, but the recipients might…

KEEPING IT PRIVATE (ISH)

If your profile is available for the world to see, anyone in the world could be reading up on your life and plans. I’m convinced many users don’t realise that anyone can see their information. Or maybe they’re real exhibitionists!

Check the privacy settings and get them right. It’s fifteen minutes of time well spent. And at least you’ll know exactly what’s going on with your data and who can see what.

My Life (photo by D LeRoy)

CONTROLLING YOUR LIFE

When friends, family and, let’s face it, even casual acquaintances can see what you’re up to, when you’re around, who you spend most time with, what makes you tick, etc., are you really able to say you are the master of your own life decisions?

While you’re unlikely to be sharing your scariest and most intimate thoughts over the social-networking sites, you’re probably still sharing a lot more information than you realised. For example, I see some pretty personal conversations between various friends of mine on their own Facebook Wall posts. It’s as if they don’t realise ALL their friends can see what’s being talked about.

That’s why I don’t use my Wall.  If people want to talk, I’ll do it through private messages.

On a different note, one friend of mine had a totally public page that explained what road she lived down, in which town, and proceeded to tell the world the dates of her holiday. Naughty, naughty!

STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE

“I’ve been so ill, so I need an extention for my essay. Oh yeah, and I’m afraid I can’t attend the compulsory seminar tomorrow, because I have a funeral to go to.”

With the power of the net, you don’t want to say this unless you’re telling the absolute truth.

If it’s a lie and you went out drinking and partying, others can find this out. And if instead of a funeral, you’re having a day out with friends, it’s quite possible for photos to appear online. A tutor might only need to spend a minute or two online to find out the reality.

In fact, tutors are more frequently becoming online friends with their students, so there’s even less room to hide.

Don’t feel invincible just because your privacy settings are switched on and you don’t speak to your tutor outside the lecture theatre. If any of your friends decide to post incriminating photos of you on their page, you’ve got just as much chance of finding yourself in deep doo-doo.