Be wise about privacy on social networks

Instead of seeing social media as paparazzi, we should be wise about our need for privacy, says Sidnam.

Emily Sidnam, Writer

Imagine a world where you have your own personal, loud-mouthed paparazzi. This is no ordinary paparazzi, though. It creeps into your mind, steals your thoughts and then shouts them from a bullhorn. It makes posters of your feelings, snaps pictures of everything you do and then makes sure all of your friends get a good look.

How would you react? You’d probably be annoyed and feel violated by the lack of privacy, right?

Well, this is how many people feel about social networks right now, especially people our age.

Students feel their privacy is violated by social networks, when they realize how easy it is for others to search and find personal details about their lives. It angers them that businesses could base a hiring decision upon scrutiny of a Facebook profile. They are annoyed that parents, grandparents and that random kid from Bio class can peer over their virtual shoulder, spying on day-to-day activities.

Students believe their right to privacy is being inconsiderately pushed and pulled, boundaries stretched and lines blurred. Isn’t it valid to get frustrated and blame social media for this?

Imagine with me a little more.

Picture again the situation above –– the one with the persistent paparazzi. This time, you notice something that slipped your mind before. You look down. The bullhorn is in your hand. Your other fist grasps the pen, poised to write. You feel the weight of the camera hanging from your neckband.

You are the paparazzi.

This is what I picture when I think about the issue of privacy and social media. We tweet our every thought and upload pictures of our activities. We post notes and statuses about intimate feelings and struggles. We laugh, love, fight, flatter, accuse, muse and converse in words documented on a public wall. We put ourselves out for the world to see, and then get frustrated when it takes a look.

Before we blame social networks, we must examine the situation. We could be the ones mainly at fault.

Privacy is important, but we often forget that we are the ones who have the most power to protect it. We control what people see by controlling what we put out there.

Here are some ways you can take charge and protect your privacy:

  • Check your privacy settings and customize them.
  • Be discerning when adding or accepting friends.
  • Move a wall conversation to your inbox if it becomes too personal.
  • If people add content about you that you wouldn’t have posted yourself, ask them privately and politely to remove it.

People are curious, and they will Facebook or Twitter stalk you. (You know because you’ve done it yourself). Don’t be an enabler by feeding them juicy tidbits. Post and tweet with discretion.

Now, I’m not trying to get you down on social networking or make it into a chore. I just want to encourage you to give yourself a better experience by making good choices. Social networks can be great tools and fun ways to connect if they are used in the right context and with appropriate content.

If we have the right perspective, we can take control of our personal paparazzi tendencies and protect our privacy.

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