Social media ... good, bad, and potentially ugly

Weekly it seems a new social network pops up into my inbasket and challenges me to keep up with its functionality and features.  While the most popular ones I’ve encountered include Facebook, myspace, Linked-in, Plaxo (pulse), Twitter, I’ve been invited to join hi-5 Naymz, Trip-it, and others.  See full size image

One social network was a cleverly disguised dating website – which I only discovered once I started getting wayward invitations based on a profile that I hadn’t even filled out!

 As quickly as these new networks spring up, a series of webinars/podcasts/ and self-appointed marketing ‘experts” tout that they have found the shortcut path to riches by using the best features of each.  (See last week’s posting about Get Rich Quick schemes on my other blog at ).  It makes me wonder with all of these disparate and somewhat cobbled together networks and minute by minute postings of various lengths (twitter confines one to less than 150 characters per post) – what did people ever do before the internet networks? 

I remember growing up as a child in Canada (ok, sure perhaps we didn’t have the huge cell phones in a box like many of you had!) – and playing hide and seek, and really having to find the other players – without the aid of a GPS or a mobile phone equipped with instantaneous Tweets of a players whereabouts.  I don’t know how we ever did it (spoken tongue in cheek!)

It’s been widely reported that Human Resource departments in many companies routinely review the more racey networking boards such as Facebook and MySpace as part of their recruitment processes, eliminating those candidates who brag about their drunken weekend exploits complete with photos.  More recently it’s come to light that police departments are now also using the social networking webs to track down stolen property, find identity theft perpetrators, and locate suspected criminals.  In fact, the widely broadcasted “To catch a predator” has been successfully nabbing suspected child molesters for years using chat rooms – so why should social networks be any different?

Social networks, in my humble opinion, are really just the next generation in closing the 6 degrees of separation gap between us as human beings, but with the added familiarity of such feigned “closeness” with strangers, we need to be vigilant with our personal information (due to identity theft), our whereabouts (due to home invasions while people are on vacation), our photographs (again due to identity theft and also stalkers who may be able to broach our privacy boundaries), and private information (which online predators can use to gain trust even without having met you).  In the online world, especially when we “meet” new friends through other friends, it can be easy to let down the guard we normally have in person.  Our intuitive nature can be compromised or even shut down when online and it is imperative that we take precautions to safeguard our personal lives.

Social media has proven to link strangers, forge new friendships and lifetime  partnerships, gain business across geographic boundaries, and allow the painfully shy to play online games with many others without having to leave their homes.  These are some of the good things – but on the flip side, there can be dangers lurking behind the online personnas that strangers (as they are) can present.  The Craigslist killer befriended and met his victim through an online site, and various other sundry results are not surprising when the online personna meets the real world.  Care, caution, and consideration are needed when taking a friendship established online beyond the bounds of cyberspace.  (Make sure that real life friends have identity and contact information of anyone you choose to meet in real life that you have met first online – just in case!)

From the good, to the bad, to the downright ugly, social networking spans the gamut of our new virtual meets reality existence. 

What’s been your experience?  Is social networking superior to or does it augment in-person networking?  What are the good, the bad, and the ugly in your experiences?

Have a great week!


Carol Dekkers

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright. View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at The Dekkers Report
=======Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

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