With the recent movie release about the drama involved in the creation of popular social networking site Facebook, I was inspired to editorialize about my experiences with all of the social sites in general.
First the good. When I write on Associated Content, post an eBay listing, or my boss is achieving something great with his ever growing acting career, I know I can count on social networks to be an effective marketing tool. I can literally advertise for free, to hundreds of people, who have the potential to advertise this to hundreds of other people. People like to share things which interest them with other people who like to share what they are interested in, and so on down the line. Think of it as a pyramid scheme without the scheming. This in essence, is what social networking websites are designed for. You get ample opportunities to talk to others about what is posted and why. You have at your fingertips, unlimited potential for free advertising. That’s a good thing when lots of companies and corporations are on a budget due to the bad economy, and would like to find ways to get their products and services seen by the general public.
Now the bad. Once in a while, hacking and phishing can become a major problem. One must really be careful about applications, and online video games found on social networking sites, because not all of them are approved, created by, or monitored by the respective sites. One’s computer can easily be infected by a virus, adware, spyware, and more, planted by phishers and spammers who know that the social networks are where it’s at, and they use the applications and games as bait to reel people in. It may sound contradictory to the stuff I mentioned in the GOOD section, however, there’s a difference between a company setting up a fan page where others in their friends list can seek it out on their own, and an application put there by an advertiser with a covert agenda. The former is not much different than a TV advertisement that encourages you to shop the latest sale at a local store. The latter is a sneaky way to sell you something without having much choice in the matter. So one must be careful about clicking links.
Another such way they can get a person is by having an unsuspecting person click on an unknown link, usually with a title or subject line that says something like, “I saw you on this video doing something nasty!” Many people will know better if they’ve been around the Internet long enough, recognize this for what it is, and not click it. If they are any kind of friend they will let the person know that their page has been phished and it’s generating other automated messages. Running a virus scan and changing a password usually takes care of the problem. However those who are unaware of this and who have never seen it before, might inadvertently get a computer infection if they click, so people must beware. The best way to avoid this is to click links from known sources and even then, be sure you know what it really is before you click into it. One thing I always do to let my social networking friends know that what I am sharing is legitimate, is that I get it from legitimate websites that I find and then I add a personal note from myself when the window opens up for me to share it.
Now the ugly part. Not everyone on a social networking site is who they say they are. Celebrity posers are a real problem. Posers are people who set up profiles in the name of a famous person and then badly try to convince fans that they are the real thing. Many times, these fans are young children who aren’t aware of the fact that their favorite movie hunk doesn’t even have a social networking site, and if they do, most of them don’t operate their own pages. They have an assistant or associate do it for networking and they rarely, if ever, interact with fans on a personal level whenever they do maintain their own pages. They certainly do not tell young fans that they are going to meet them for a lunch date at the local donut shop. A little research and common sense will easily tell a person whether the celebrity page is legitimate or not. Just because they claim they are the real John Doe, doesn’t mean they are. Many times these posers are just people who don’t care if they hurt anyone’s feelings, or they are pedophiles who use the name of the celebrity to lure young fans into their clutches. There are vigilant people out there who work to weed out and eliminate these sites but it’s always an uphill battle. Once one gets deleted, the persistent posers will just turn around and create another site. If their IP gets blocked, they just find another computer from which to do their dirty work. First and foremost, if you find a site belonging to a celebrity and you suspect it’s not the real thing, don’t hesitate to report it. You’re not going to hurt the person if it turns out to be the real thing because the sites have learned to investigate before taking action. In the case of a man in the news recently whose name is shared with teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, his account was deactivated for having a fake profile. All he had to do was prove to the networking site that was his real legitimate name. It may have been a headache for the man who had the same name as the teenage pinup boy, but it proves that the social networking sites are doing more to eliminate the posing sites.
Another thing that makes using social networking sites a bit ugly, is the fact that these sites are the playground to TMIers and gossip mongers everywhere. These people practically rejoiced at the advent of such sites. The unapologetic gossipers can’t wait to pounce on something juicy if the man down the street shares such TMI as that he’s cheating on his wife. The gossipers can’t wait to re-tweet these tidbits. The TMI guy finds his life in a shambles. There have also been lots of headlines lately about teachers, clergy, and more being fired from their jobs because of the TMI they share on the social networking sites. Bottom line: once it’s on the internet, even with the strictest privacy settings, it’s forever out there. Think before you post your photos and information. And if you have friends and family who would like to see pictures of you inebriated on your most recent fishing trip, save those for the private messaging function. Social networking sites can definitely ruin a person’s life if they are not careful.
And the ugliest part of all; cyberbullying. Lots of times, you will run into a troll whose only purpose is to stir up drama. They lack something in their own lives that makes them want to try to ruin others. And not seeing who they are victimizing, these trolls get desensitized to what it is they are doing to others. But a person doesn’t have to be a victim. They must simply learn not to take things personally, and try their best not to jump onto a person for their posts. I do know of a woman who thinks she’s not only internet police, but also fan police of a certain actor she and I mutually admire. So she frequently tries to discredit anyone or everyone who dares mention his name anywhere on line. The sad part is, this person is a sixty year old grandmother who should be concentrating on her grandchildren she claims she’s so proud of, instead of bullying and slandering people online, but this is what she does. Then she plays the victim and wonders why everyone hates her. I unsubbed from a group recently because there was a woman on there who jumped on each and every post I made and wanted to turn something fun into an argument. I’m not playing her game. I left. And I never gave her the argument she wanted either. Each time she’d jump me for something I posted, I just ignored it.
There are ways to block posts by others who offend you. But most people don’t want to use them. One person even said to me one time that she was offended by what I posted. I asked her, “why did you read it?” She said it was because it was there! This makes absolutely no sense to me, because I don’t buy a newspaper or magazine and read each and every article. The same could be said to posts on social networks and stuff posted elsewhere on the web as well.