What you should know about proper behavior and responsibility on social networks.

The social networking sites have opened a new way we interact with people. Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn allow us to keep in touch with friends, family, coworkers, and at the same time meet new people. Although this interaction is not in person, there are still social norms governing responsibility and appropriate behavior when using these services. Because social networks have made public what was private before, these norms are still in a state of flux.

One thing to keep in mind is that most things you decide to put into social networking sites will be public. Be mindful that even if you do not care, your friends, colleagues, and family members might not want certain information or photos widely exposed. To keep a conversation or comment private, send a private message to the person.

  • Facebook allows users to have more control over what information is accessible to the general public. A person can change their privacy settings to choose how public or private you want your page to be and people have access to it.
  • On Twitter, unlike Facebook, everything is public and anything you type can be seen not only by people who have an account on Twitter, but also by anyone who decides to view the page.
  • If you want to share photos to a small group of people, you can use private settings on social networking sites on Facebook or MySpace. Another option that many people use is to create an account on a website such as Shutterfly or Picasa that allows you to put photo albums on line. You can provide private links to the accounts without making them public.

Although it seems obvious, it goes without saying: do not put anything that you do not want people to know, such as compromising photos, offensive or defamatory statements. Ask yourself what could happen if our current and potential employers, family members, or neighbors see your post.

It is the responsibility of each person who uses social networks to be courteous and respectful of other users. You have the right to keep or remove from your friends people who put offensive or inappropriate content. Although you can report inappropriate behavior on Facebook and Twitter, in most situations the best that they can do is delete the offending content. If you have questions about how to handle a situation that arises when using some social networks, use your common sense. If you would not behave in a certain way in public, do not behave that way when interacting in virtual communities.

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