Facebook Nation

Face-friendSomeone you are “friends” with on a website, such as Facebook and don’t acknowledge when you see them outside the internet.

“So is Anna going to be at your party this Friday?”
“No way. We’re just face-friends.”
– Urban Dictionary

In six short years the Internet website Facebook has grown tenfold. Twitter, MySpace, and Linkedin are all part of an ever growing category of “social networking” sites, but Facebook is the 500 million-strong gorilla.

“Social Networking” is geek-speak for sharing interests, photos and whatever-pops-into-your-head-at-any-given-moment to one or more individuals via the internet. (God forbid you should pick up a phone and/or actually interact with someone face to face, which seems to make the term FACE-book a little ironic.)

While there have been numerous examples where these sites have offered instant, newsworthy information from remote locations covering events from political upheaval to earthquakes, the technology has become the new distraction for those who wish to share (many overshare) with “friends” a play-by-play of whatever they’re thinking or doing. This invites those same “friends” to view and share their own thoughts about your thoughts and… it’s all out there (most of it, anyway) for the world to see.

“But Jim,” you might say, “isn’t that exactly what you do with your own web site? You post your little scribbles and invite all manner of rebuttal; you just ‘high-brow’ the whole thing by creating your own wiz-bang web page which, I might add, has a big photo of you in the center!”

Generally, yes; specifically, no.

I write commentaries about individuals and issues related to ethics similar to newspaper Op-eds. I invite any and all comments both for and against my opinions. I don’t share personal details about what I had for breakfast or how a friend welshed on a bet on a Red Sox game, (that hasn’t happened, by the way, it’s just an example).

However, what concerns me most are issues of privacy and how some people are using sites such as Facebook to spread gossip and rumors, destroying reputations and lives in the process. Cyber-bullying is on the rise and so is the proliferation of all manner of I.D. theft.

While I acknowledge the benefits of sharing with friends and family, I encourage all to read the following (edited) “7 things to stop doing now on Facebook,” from the June issue of Consumer Reports:

Don’t use a weak password – avoid simple names or words.  Mix upper and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.  A password should have at least 8 characters.

Don’t use your full birth date – It’s an ideal target for identity thieves.  If you’ve already entered a birth date, go to your Profile page and Edit.

Don’t overlook privacy controls – You can limit access to only your friends, and yourself.  Restrict access to photos, birth date, religious views and family information.

Don’t use your child’s name – Don’t use a child’s name in photo tags or captions.  If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag.  If your child isn’t on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name.

Don’t mention that you’ll be away from home – That’s like putting a “no one’s home” sign on your door.

Don’t let search engines find you – To help prevent strangers from accessing your page, go to the Search section of Facebook’s privacy controls and select Only Friends for Facebook search results.  Be sure the box for public search results isn’t checked.

Don’t permit youngsters to use Facebook unsupervised –Facebook limits its members to ages 13 and over, but children younger than that use it.  Use your e-mail address as the contact for their account so that you receive their notifications and monitor their activities.

It’s important to remember that anything you post, everything you post obliges us to demonstrate the necessary responsibility and respect.  If we keep those values in mind, the web can be a valuable tool no matter how it’s used.

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