Most all of us use social media of some sort, whether Facebook, LinkedIn, Tweeter, Google+, Flickr, WordPress, the list goes on. It’s a great way to connect to our friends and family, share insight as to what is happening in our lives at any moment and of course to see what others are doing as well. Wikipedia describes social media as a “web-based and mobile technology used to turn communications into interactive dialog”. For the most part that is exactly what we use it for, but there is a darker side that you should know about.
While watching the news yesterday evening a story catch my eye referencing how scammers use social media to their advantage, they can collect personal information about you. Before you get mad at your preferred social media provider, you need to understand that the problem is you, not your social media – at least in part. We can learn a lot about someone from their social media sites. We can learn the obvious things like your name, the city where you live, whether you are male or female, where you work, what school(s) you went to, who your friends are, if you are in a relationship and with who. But we can also learn things like your dog’s name and breed, if you bought a new car, when and where you went on vacation, what restaurants you frequent, what music and movies you like. If you use third-party applications like Foursquare we can learn where you’ve been, where you are right now and where you live.
There is a scam currently running that is targeting your family pretending to be you, asking for money for an emergency. The scammers go to your social media site to learn as much information about you as they possibly can and then target a family member, mainly an elderly member asking them to wire money to them somewhere. These scammers know a lot of information about you, and can often convince that person to send money. Of course by the time it is learned that they are not you, they are long gone with the money.
I also saw a news story about a police officer who happily tweets about finding a missing teen, but before the teens family is notified. This story had a happy ending, but brings up the dark side of social media.
But these examples are just a couple out of many, there are so many things online these days – online dating, chat rooms, business networks and on and on . You should be careful about the information you release to the public. Yes – I did say public, because it is not just your friends and family that can see this information. You should start thinking about social media as a Press Release, everything you say – can be seen, read, copied and even used against you in a court of law, or by a stalker, criminals, thugs and more. The information you post becomes public record.
Not only do we need to worry about who sees what, but social media has also become a huge time warp, sucking our time away. When do we actually have time to live our life anymore?
The other day I was at a restaurant having dinner an noticed a group of teens, about eight of them sitting at a table silently texting other people and updating their Facebook. I laughed and wondered what’s the point of hanging out with your friends and you are not even talking to them. If your face is buried in your cell phone all the time, how social is that? Last week an article came out on CNN about Facebook and Narcissistic behavior. It’s an interesting article to say the least.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that social media is a bad thing, as least in moderation. I have many social media sites myself. What I would like you to think about is how to not make yourself a target. Understand that the information you post is public and can put you in some compromising positions and awkward situations.
One of the signature lines from an old TV show (1981) called Hill Street Blues was “let’s be careful out there”.
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