The world has become a virtual playground for social networking and online interaction. Web sites where individuals can meet and chat with others who share their same interests have sprouted up rapidly and have grown into a very popular sector of the Internet.
With the advent of such web sites as Facebook, Twitter and online communities for every kind of hobby enthusiast, millions are logging in, joining up and participating.
These online communities are attractive because they appear to be anonymous and attract members from all walks of life and from every corner of the world. People from all over the world can now meet virtually from the comfort of their home without having to leave their small town or big city. While this is exciting, there are some things that users should be mindful of while participating in these online communities.
Limit Discussions of Personal Experiences Online
Limiting the amount of personal information shared also includes sharing personal anecdotes about life, family and friends, even without naming names and places. No one really knows who is reading online posts and who these other anonymous people might know.
There are stories of people who shared what they thought of as general information about themselves and others being recognized and their identity being revealed to other members of the online community they were sharing with—without their permission! The best thing to do is avoid sharing personal stories with strangers. If a point needs to be made, change names, places and events to protect the innocent and possibly not so innocent.
Limit Personal Pictures Online
Many social networking sites encourage the sharing of personal photographs and most people do not mind. Profiles demand a personal picture and picture albums seem like the perfect place for those photographs of good times with family and friends. Unless these photographs can be made private and viewed by only those approved of, it may not be a good idea.
Photographs of one’s home and obvious location should not be posted under any circumstance unless unwanted visitors (and worst, burglars) are wanted. In the end, users should go to great lengths to protect their identity and those that are closest to them.
Be Cautious when Socializing with other Users On and Offline
Interactions with online friends is exciting and thrilling. online users appear friendly and charming and have the added bonus of sharing a common interest and goal that one’s wife or husband hardly cares about. The reality is that no one really knows who they are talking to online. While a user may present themselves as a legitimate person without any secondary motives, the truth is that one can never be too careful.
One user masquerading as a stay-at-home mother may actually be a parolee on house arrest—online one could never tell the difference.
If possible, keep the online friends and real-life friends separate. Some online communities have meetings offline where members are encouraged to show up at a public place to meet others with the same interests and to share insider information. Attending these meetings is not a bad idea but forming friendships outside of the meetings should be approached with caution.
If after several meetings and careful observations, users want to connect without the group, they should do so only in a public place. They should also remain cautious with each other, not give out any personal information and limit all discussions to their shared hobbies and interests.
The world wide web has become a hub for learning and socializing creating a haven for users across the globe. Users can interact and network while being aware of the dangers that lurk behind the computer screen. Users can protect their identity, limit personal information and pictures and interact with others cautiously without limiting the online experience.