Thursday, July 06, 2006

Online social networks and college

"We know already," he said. --Frank Pleta, 17 (quoted in Washington Times article)

My reply to that may be, "if you know already, why do you still post your pictures of yourself in some drunken bacchanalia for all to see?" or my personal favorite, "why do people keep putting up videos of their latest brawl on their MySpace or other service?" However, that may be a topic for another post. Now, I am sure Mr. Pleta is a bit more savvy. At least, I hope he is, but I am sure many teens attending college who use services like Facebook or MySpace would have a similar answer if they get a lecture or discussion of the hazards of online social networking. The reason I am mentioning this is that I came across an article on colleges that now integrate discussions of online social networks into their orientations for incoming students. The article was written on July 3, 2006 and is entitled "College Orientations Teach Do's and Don'ts of Web Sites" from The Washington Times. Apparently, a few more colleges are doing this in order to address the concerns of parents as well as to allay fears, mostly hysterical fears fueled by the media it seems. I found it interesting that some of the schools mentioned will give discussions to both students and parents and others only to the students.

Folks, there is one simple rule: don't put anything on one of those profiles that you would not want your family, your potential (or present) employer, and law enforcement to see. Even with the safeguards some of the services offer, these are still public pages for the most part, and eventually tools like Google do pick them up. For more advice for students, this mostly for Facebook users but applicable to those using MySpace as well, readers can see Mr. Fred Stutzman's post "Common-Sense Facebook Advice for Students." By the way, Mr. Stutzman has done a good share of thinking on the the topic of online social software, and readers may be interested in looking at his blog for other items. Of particular interest may be his "Summarizing Facebook Research" post which brings together a good list of items on the topic. His post on Facebook's success factors is also interesting to those who want to understand how these type of services thrive. Additionally, while I am putting up some links of interest, Cornell University has a "Thoughts on Facebook" page, a memo to their campus users written by the campus's Director of Information Technology Policy, Ms. Tracy Mitrano. It is worth a look as well.

A hat tip on the article to The Kept-Up Librarian.

Another hat tip to The Wired Campus for the Cornell memo.

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