Facebook is fun as you interact with friends, upload photos and catch up on the latest gossip; so we don’t often think about when Facebook statuses can be dangerous to our safety or job security. What makes Facebook such a successful social networking platform is that it is personal; and it is for this reason that Facebook can also be dangerous.
On Facebook, you are sharing personal information with your “friends”. But how many of your 1087 “friends” (and three pending – you’re not sure if you know them or not) can you actually trust with your personal information. Before you update on the latest and greatest of what your life has to offer, here are some points to keep in mind:
- “I’m in Plettenberg Bay with the whole family (and the dogs!) for two weeks. Bring on summer!” To you (and hopefully to most of your friends) this is good news; to someone not so trustworthy this is an open invitation for them to take advantage of a house that is sitting empty for two weeks. How will they know where you live? Oh wait, it’s under your contact information! This happened to American Keri McMullen, who had $10,000 worth of items stolen when she posted that she was going to a concert for the night. A “friend” saw this, took the gap and robbed her home. Be wary when posting pictures of exotic locations, as people will know that you are far from home.
- If you are promoting an event on Facebook, rather keep it to an invites-only group than post it as a status as you never know which unwanted guest will turn up. Also change the event’s privacy status so that only the people who are invited to the event can see the event information. “Parents are away. Party at my place at 7pm!” Yes, your parents may be away, but they can log on Facebook anytime from anywhere and maybe they won’t be as happy about your shindig as your other friends.
- “Passed out on the couch after a big Phuza Thursday. I’m dreading going into work this morning.” And if your boss reads about it, your day is sure to get even worse! Even if you are over 18 years old and you’re legally allowed to drink, rather keep the night’s festivities out of the status headlines. If you have a funny story to share, rather send a private message to your friends. If you post statuses and picture that are verging on PG-13, other people may get offended. It can also be a safety issue, letting unwanted people know where you hang out and how drunk you get there.
- When Facebook statuses can be dangerous is also when you air too many personal details and dealings on the social network. If you change your relationship status more than your underwear and publicly air your private disputes, you can hurt other people’s feelings and many even land yourself in trouble as a result.
- Don’t use you status to show your vulnerability. Rather, use the people close to you and talk to them face to face about your issues or problems. Although online friends can offer support, a social network is not an open shoulder to cry on and statuses like “I’m lonely”, “I’m bored”, “I’m sad” make you an easy target both emotionally (cyber bullying is a major problem these days) and physically.
- If possible, avoid being Facebook friends with your boss or other work colleagues. If you are friends with them, try to keep you Facebook statuses and postings PG and don’t say anything bad about your job or co-workers.
The best advice is probably to keep a small circle of friends who you trust and know well. You can also adjust your privacy settings so that only certain people and friends have access to your profile and personal information. If you use Facebook sensibly and responsibly, the social network can be a great way to interact with friends and share the (not too private!) details of your life.