You Know, for n00bs:
A co-worker and good friend of mine is taking a Social Media class at BYU. It’s pretty interesting to hear some of the topics and stories that come from talking about Social media today. I’m somewhat amazed how little people in my generation know of the Internet and tech. Even some from the next generation still struggle with basic computer knowledge and the majority of both generations don’t really understand the many different Internet cultures that exist. –Hence the need for college courses on the subject, I guess. For a few of us, the web is just another part of life but I don’t think that’s the case for the majority. For the sake of this conversation, let’s boil this down to two classes of people: Geeks and Normals. I’m a geek (surprise!), one of those who know and understand some of the complexities of tech and the Internet. I’ll classify everyone else as being a part of the “Normals”. Now, being a Normal isn’t bad, neither is being a Geek. We’re just different. The Social aspect of the Internet has bloomed rather nicely over the last few years and has become a viable market where more and more Normals are being brought into the digital age. Social media is on TV and is quickly infiltrating much more of the Normal’s daily lives. This is good, but this is also bad. The Internet is a powerful tool for both good and evil. Now that Internet cultures are seeping more and more into the Normals’ world, I think the duty falls on us geeks to inform and warn of the goods and evils that exist in this new digital world.
So in that spirit, let’s talk about Privacy and how it’s not exactly a simple thing to keep whilst being a part of Internet culture, for Geeks and Normals alike:
Social websites are a part of the Internet now and a part of our lives as well. I think that overall, social websites and services like Facebook and Twitter add value and dynamics to my life. They’re tools that I use to define both my personal and professional brand online and in real life. From time to time, I Google myself with just that in mind. For me, my ‘virtual life’ is just another part of what makes me, me. I’m me in the digital world just as much as I’m me in the flesh and I try to behave the same way in both worlds. It’s important to understand that not everyone on the Internet shares the same philosophy. You’ll find that many choose to create separate personas on the Internet for one reason or another. But it’s not all scary and not all negative out in the big WWW, it can add variety, understanding and substance to your life. I would tell any Normal to go ahead and do it, sign up for Facebook, check out what’s out there to learn, use the Internet to improve your life and expand your knowledge and friends just take precaution in doing so. When you decide to embark on any new adventure on the internet do so just like you would do in the real world. Be prepared, informed, and don’t ever forget who you are and what makes you, you.
Social Sites and Your Identity:
Google messed up pretty big with the release their social plugin, Buzz. A blogger’s NSFW rant summed up by Gizmodo here explains some of the concerns with how Google implemented Buzz. Buzz is a want-to-be Facebook/Twitter hybrid that auto-followed some of your frequent gmail contacts and also auto-allowed them access to some private data of yours. Needless to say, the Internet nerds hail Buzz as quite the failure. Did you know that you can set up a Google Profile that helps people find you easier on the web? Yahoo, Live, Hotmail, Flickr, LinkedIN, Plaxo and a myriad of other websites offer some pretty cool services but they also may allow have public views of your information that you are not aware of. Are you managing what’s public and what’s private on the sites where you have a presence?
Unlike me, you may not want to have parts of your persona found within a web search but do you know what can be found? Google yourself. Sign out of Facebook and search your name within the site. You’ll see what any stranger can see. What can you find out about yourself using pipl.com? With the frequent evolution of social websites like Facebook, you may not be aware of how to control your privacy settings either. Did you know that you can choose to disallow search indexing of your Facebook profile so that your info isn’t found on a web search? You can control what information is available to your FB friends and those who aren’t as well.
Facebook is a gateway to the modern internet for many who may not be familiar with it’s benefits and real dangers. For the most part, I like Facebook. It delivers on what Social Networking is for me. It’s a great way to stay in contact with the many friends that I care about but don’t interact with on a daily basis. However, it’s not perfect and there are a lot of things that I find painfully annoying about it. Frankly, I don’t like how FB has organized it’s account settings either. Even their Help Center isn’t all that user-friendly. Figuring out how to turn applications on/off and disallow auto-posting or blocking them is much harder to do than it should be. It’s worth taking the time to learn how to do it:
Here’s a couple links that may help you get a better understanding about privacy in Facebook and how you can control it:
- FB has a decent FAQ in their Help Center
- 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know
- Block Those Irritating Facebook Quiz & Application Messages
If you’re looking to build a business through Social Media, check out The Science of Building Trust With Social Media.
One last thought: It’s important to be a little skeptical and think critically whilst on the Internet (or when learning anything new from an untrusted source). Don’t believe everything you read if it sounds too good to be true, it prolly is. Find out for yourself or ask advice from trusted sources and make educated judgments. Don’t take that inner skeptic too far though; you don’t want to become the cynical a-hole that I am guilty of being from time to time.