Digital social networking has been around for a lot longer than many would realise. Fidonet was probably one of the first cabs off the rank in terms of social networking in the form of Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) with message areas and mail (also known as echomail, netmail, mail, conference areas, subboards). The first BBS was developed by Ward Christensen while he was snowed in during a blizzard and went online on February 16th, 1978.
Fidonet was created to solve a business/social problem that we still face today – the ability to discuss, collaborate and share information with each other in multiple locations around a city, country or across the world in a timely manner. In those days it was done via dialup modems, at large expense to the hobbyist, and it was community driven and lead – There are still a collection on BBS’s that exist today, and a lot of those messaging networks still continue for these die hard users.
Facebook, bebo, Linkedin are all examples of modern day social networking. Some are focused on the social aspect of life and family, keeping in contact with friends and colleagues while others focus on niche areas such as business relationships.
In my opinion they are a wonderful tool (and entertainment) for keeping in contact with people, having your say, networking, sharing family photos etc, however they can also have a major impact on your life, depending on the types of information you share, the networks/groups you join as well as the comments you make.
For me, whenever I’m about to meet someone new, I typically insert their name into a search engine for some background reading, as well as look them up on Facebook and Linkedin to understand areas of interest, things in common, discussions topics etc.
Social networking for most is about having fun, continuing relationships, meeting people with similar interests etc, however I personally think there is a massive lack of education in terms of impact this can have on your current and future employment. Most of the things you do online, once posted, is there for life. Search engines typically don’t delete information, so once it exists on the web, is very hard to remove.
In this day and age, where most of the younger generation heavily utilise these mediums, there seems to be a large lack of thought and understanding in terms of the potential damage this could cause them as the move forward with their lives and careers.
It’s almost like a Big Brother show that doesn’t end. Here’s a few examples of where things don’t go according to plan via social networking.
1.A Sydney call centre worker who "chucked a sickie" only to be caught out on Facebook is now the subject of a formal investigation by his employer.
Full article here.
2. U2’s Bono and a couple of bikini-clad girls were made available to the entire New York network on Facebook by mistake due to not setting the appropriate privacy settings.
Full article here.
Other areas of concern around online social networking are around Social Engineering (obtaining confidential information and then manipulating a situation for personal gain for example) and Identity theft (fraud that involves stealing money or receiving other benefits by pretending to be someone else).
There’s an organisation in New Zealand called NetSafe. NetSafe provides cybersafety education for New Zealanders - children, parents, schools, community organisations and businesses. NetSafe's aim is to educate all New Zealanders about safe, secure and responsible use of information and communication technology.
So my point here is by all means have fun, however think about potential ramifications of the information you publically post and participate in, as your past can haunt you :-)