I’m not sure how to tactfully talk about the subject of fear regarding social media. I have acquaintances who are fairly certain that Facebook is the equivalent of standing naked on the street corner. They speak freely of stalking their friends pages and how wrong it feels to know more about their friends than they think they should. I can’t help pointing out that people post things on Facebook TO LET people see them.
It’s also important to note that the only people privy to your Facebook page are your FRIENDS if you set your privacy settings accordingly. In fact, you can completely lock down your Facebook page so that you are the only person who sees any of it…although I can’t imagine why anyone would feel the need to have Facebook under those conditions. There is also the nice “List” feature which makes it possible to divide your friends list into separate smaller lists and allows you to post updates/pictures/links just to those people without inundating your entire list.
Really. Unless you’re adding complete strangers to your friends list, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be sharing your information with any strangers.
People also worry about their kids using Facebook and being conned by shady men (or women) posing as 13yo girls (or boys).
I get it. I do. It’s just not something likely to happen on Facebook. Take five minutes to investigate the privacy settings and you’ll see what I mean.
I’ve come to realize that Facebook, Twitter and their counterparts are similar to driving our cars and parking them in huge bustling parking lots outside a shopping center (I’m making a point – I promise.) We all have choices to make when we park our cars. We have a choice about whether or not we’ll close the windows, lock the car, leave our purse on the seat, hide cash and loose change, leave mail (with our return address clearly visible) on the dashboard…etc. We know that people get their cars stolen from parking lots. We know someone could walk past and attempt to steal our identity with information we leave lying around. We still decide to go ahead and park and walk away. Someone else in the parking lot walks past and glances to see that we’ve left our dog in the car. Is that person a stalker just because they stop to look in the car? Not really. They’re nosy. They’re not stalkers.
I understand the inherent problems that come with turning a kid loose on Facebook. I believe Facebook’s policy of not allowing people under 13 is reasonable. Parents should be walking through this new frontier alongside their kids. Talk about privacy settings and set them fairly high for the kids accounts.
Don’t operate from a base of fear. Fear makes us do and say silly things. Arm yourself with real information. Start a Facebook account. Limit it to family only for the first six months while you get a feel for how it works. Facebook is different things to different people – find out what works for you. Control it. Don’t fear it.
Be familiar with it and manage it as a tool not as a weapon or a ticking time bomb.
Social Media is not going away – ever. It’s just going to become more and more necessary for our children to be able to pick and choose where they will invest their time in the online world. We can help them begin making those choices while they still live with us. Talk about variety. In the same way that there are lots of different kinds of tissue on the market (yet we only use the kind we like)… there are choices with regard to social media. You don’t have to use all of it…nor should you try. Use what works for you and feel free to ignore the rest.
UPDATE: Well ain’t that like life? Facebook went and changed within a few weeks of my writing this. *sigh* I still don’t think it’s scary but I’m not happy with the changes. If I thought Google+ was better I would use that instead. Right now it’s a draw.