The many perils of living life online

By Martine Rolls

"Making the world more open and connected" is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's catchphrase. That's all good and well, as long as you know exactly who you are being open and connected with. So the question is; do you know all your Facebook friends?

Nowadays, I don't accept friend requests from people I don't know, but looking at the long list I've accumulated over the years, I must have done so in the past. Going through the 362 names, there are plenty of folks I don't recognise.

I haven't bothered with 'unfriending' people much, even though I have wiped off a few who kept harassing me with Farmville and Holdem Poker requests. I've also deleted an ex-boyfriend off my Facebook for insulting other friends, and for generally being rude. I should have known. It's the reason I left him in the first place.

Social media is not the best medium for spleen venting. People who rubbish their work, colleagues, teachers or boss on Facebook are not doing themselves any favours. Employment disputes about comments posted online are quite common.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

If you are job hunting, you should also be careful with your online identity. Almost half of employers reportedly check the Facebook and Twitter accounts of applicants as part of the recruitment process.

Social media is not as private as you may think and employers are within their rights when monitoring what their staff are tweeting. An incident involving an employee that can be seen as hurtful to the employer may be grounds for dismissal.

Rude and insulting comments and aren't the only things you should avoid putting online. Telling the world about your holiday plans is not a good idea either. It could be an open invitation for thieves to empty your house while you're away. If you want all of your friends to know about your trip to Rarotonga, it's best to wait until you get back to brag about it.

Mind you, detailed photos of your home or updates about your latest gadgets can also inspire a robbery when accessed by the wrong person. It's also sensible to be careful when using location-based applications. It lets potential burglars know that your property is empty.

Sharing photos is a key part of any social network. However, it goes without saying that you should be careful with the choice of pictures you upload. Embarrassing shots could land you in a lot of trouble with your boss, your partner, or your mum. And watch out for those free drinks at your office Christmas party. Things that used to be just laughed about the next day are now recorded, tweeted about, and posted on YouTube.

According to a survey held in the UK, the average adult admits to being drunk in three-quarters of their Facebook photos. Not a good look. More than half of the participants in the survey said they had pictures on their social media pages that they would not want work colleagues to see, while eight per cent admitted to appearing in pictures which could get them into "serious trouble" in the office.

I have a range of photo albums on Facebook that I haven't looked at for ages so it was time for a quick scan. Some photos certainly don't show me from my best angle, thanks for the tags guys, but there aren't too many embarrassing ones. What a relief.

And last but not least, make sure to never, ever put your address, phone number, birth date, or other personal information online. It can be used to locate your home and you can easily become a target of fraudsters or spam.

In addition to taking care over what you put online, it's also worth keeping a grip on who exactly can access your information. It'll be worth your while to crank up the privacy settings on any sites you use and to delete the people you don't know.

On the next rainy day, and I'm sure there will be a few more of those before summer properly kicks in, I will be going through all the stuff I have put online, clean it up, just to make absolutely sure it is all safe and sound.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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