September-October 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 7

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Not Everyone is Your “Friend”
in an Online World

Michelle Dupray, ASA Information Services Department

LinkedIn. Facebook. Twitter. Listservs. Google Plus. YouTube. In all its forms, social networks help their members get jobs, increase their professional network, and stay connected to family, friends, and students. Social networks also have blurred the once solid separation of a personal and professional life, leading students and professors to know details about each that were previously unacceptable. Despite this negative consequence, social networks have the ability to increase student engagement, help numerous professionals get jobs, and are integrated into most Americans’ professional and personal lives. With some forethought, social network users can minimize the negative consequences of social networking while engaging in its benefits.

When you become a member of any social network, you are submitting your personal information to a database to which you do not have proprietary rights. Before you sign up for any social network, think about what information you would want to share  with a stranger. It is usually a bad idea to submit your address or phone number because your social network page, including your resume listing in a job board, can be indexed by Google. If you are uncomfortable with a stranger having access to this information, it shouldn’t be shared in an electronic format.

When you set up a personal account in a social network, look at the URL in the browser. It should begin with https://; the “s” means it is on a secure server. If it is not, don’t proceed as there is a risk that your personal information could be stored improperly. This is also important to note when you are purchasing something online. The browser should have https:// in the URL as an indication the transaction will be secure.

Choose what you post to a social network carefully and assume that what you post is seen by everyone, despite privacy settings. If it is something you wouldn’t share with your pastor, parent or boss, it shouldn’t be on a social network. If you choose to delete any photo or comment you submitted, it may have been deleted on the screen, but not in the social network’s database. In one social network, it can take up to several months for a photo to be deleted from its server. If you are uncomfortable this lack of control over how something is shared, you should think twice before posting.

To help separate your personal/professional life in the social media world, ask yourself what are you going to use your account for before you set it up and stick to it. Do you want to engage your students in an extension of your classroom lecture? Then, you should try to keep pictures of your spouse, children, or grandkids off the account. Have separate accounts or profiles for your professional life and personal interests.

As social networks evolve and new ones emerge, the technology will become more ingrained in our culture and way of life. Whether a teacher or a student, everyone should take full advantage the benefits of social media, with the precaution of only posting content you feel comfortable sharing with everyone. If it is not something you would want your parent/child or employer to see, think twice before updating, blogging, tweeting, uploading, or posting.

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