The downside to social networking, part 1

As many of you know, Tina, my search guru, has been pushing me into the use of Social Media as a tool to increase my exposure on the web as well as increase business.  So far, I have to say that I have had some pretty impressive results and I’m just getting started.

One of the things that her and I talked about early on was my absolute need for privacy.   Being in the tech field, I have seen a lot of people get “screwed” by their own careless misuse of technology.  I am talking about people being fired over things they said in an online forum or sued over the content of a supposedly “private” email.

I think that one of the main reasons I was initially reluctant to try out Tina’s Web 2.0 marketing strategies go back to some of the battles I had to go through with my stepdaughters over their use of MySpace.  Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t get into details here but let’s just say the old saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” is definitely true when it comes to teenagers.  I wish I had a service back then like MyChild From ReputationDefender.  It all worked out though in the end – although they had some issues (and even got busted by us for some things they bragged about) they learned their lessons the hard way and are “responsible” myspace users now.

So, it seems that with all this attention to Web 2.0, we are slipping into a way of communicating that is making it more difficult to draw a clear line that separates your Web life from your real one.

While this can be a good thing.. Allowing you to connect with new-found friends and re-connect with old ones.. Letting your own voice be heard by an audience that can go from a handful to a thousand in a few hours.. Even giving you the chance to promote yourself and share your life..  It could also be costly.

Before I elaborate, here are a few stats:

  • 50 Million Americans change jobs each year
  • 20 Million Americans are dating online
  • 64% of teens say they do things online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know about.
  • 53% of American adults use search engines to find information about each other
  • 7% of executive recruiters use search engines to research applicants
  • 26% of college admissions officers use search engines to research candidates

Now add in some stats about the top sites on the ‘net.  As of Nov 18, 2008, among the top 10 sites at Alexa, are:

  • # 3
  • # 5
  • # 7
  • # 8
  • # 9

That just covers some of the video sharing, social networking, wiki, and blogging sites. Also in the top 10 are the following four search engines:

  • #1
  • #2
  • #4
  • #10

What you get when you combine all of these statistics together is that there is an unprecedented rise in the desire to inform and to be informed.  Not only that, but it can be done so easily now.  I’m even willing to bet that right now, you probably have an open tab on your browser that is running at least one of, or one that is closely related to, the sites I mentioned above.

Am I right?

In my next article, I am going to go into some more specifics about my concerns with Web 2.0 and social networking.  I am also going to talk about how you can “do” social media while keeping your online “footprint” strictly in check.  We’ll also talk about how services like ReputationDefender can help.

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About the Author

Though his chief ambition is to one day control the entire Internet, Jim busies himself in the meantime running our little web development and marketing agency. He's a certified super nerd who ranks coding in old, outdated languages and watching Star Trek reruns just a bit too high on his list of fun things to do. Outside of work, Jim enjoys Hockey (Tampa Bay Lighning, to be specific), more genres of music than most people realize exist, riding his Harley (he calls it "two wheel therapy") and exploring the world through travel.