I know you like mySpace.com. Itâ€™s an online place to share things about yourselfâ€”your wit, charm and good looksâ€”and to meet others. Tell a little bit about yourself, post a picture, and give just enough to let others want to know you. Itâ€™s also a place to scope out friends and what silly and provocative things they put out. So youâ€™re attracted to the older high school guy, the one who seems so mild mannered and shy in person, but dons an entirely new profile online. I can (gulp!) live with the notion that you might be attracted to his shaved head, rippled stomach, half-mast pants, multiple nose studs and alluring tattoos that complement his wicked grin.
At least you can see this guy. I worry more about are the ones you canâ€™t see. For everything cool about the online world, there is an equal and opposite seamy side. Your generation is so trusting, so quick to share details of yourselves and lives online. Yet while your intent is frolicsome, youâ€™re often sharing yourselves with the world. Beware the dementors of the internet. Every generation has its share of lurkers, perverts and miscreants; itâ€™s just that the online world provides them easy access to you.
Youâ€™re not alone. Facebook.com is the craze for college students. Itâ€™s cool to a point, but when students start posting pictures of themselves with kegs in the background, smoking a bong or showing some skin, theyâ€™re finding out quickly how things travel at the speed of internet. College officials and police find indisputable evidence of underage drinking. Students are sucked into their campus judicial systems for slandering faculty and fellow students. Racy pictures take on a life of their own. Busted!
Once you post things online, thereâ€™s no turning back. Web pages are searched and archived daily by internet robots. The pages are there forever, on someoneâ€™s server, whether you decide to delete it or not. You are suddenly Googleable!
Itâ€™s becoming common practice for employers to Google job applicants. Think about that. You spend a lot of time preparing for a job search by polishing your resume, dressing for success and planning your interview questions. Then, after you do so well, the hiring manager tells you they found your profile online. That little ditty you wrote 3 years ago, the one you thought was so cute and clever, especially by adding a picture from Girls Gone Wild. Well, they decided you werenâ€™t quite the professional profile they were looking for.
Donâ€™t roll your eyes at me, girls. It happens. Just remember this. Have fun, get to know others, but use this tool wisely. Donâ€™t give out any information that would identify you, your address or other vitals. Your first name is fine, a nickname is better. Keep yourself mysterious. And on the internet, start with a position of distrust.
And like a very traditional notion of managing yourself in public, think about what your mother and father would think if they saw your postings online. In many cases, we will.