Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rant #104: Social Networking or Social Harassment?

I have my personal trepidations about social networking sites. Although I am on a couple of them, I have my doubts about their veracity and their context in our society.

I currently belong to Facebook and Twitter, and I once frequented Delphi. I guess that they are all good for what they do—helping you to stay in touch with people you ordinarily wouldn’t hear from. I just joined Classmates.com, so I am personally networked up to the gills.

These sites are fine if you are trying to locate long-lost friends or keep up with your relationships in this fast-changing world.

However, I think a lot of people use these sites as a replacement for one-on-one social relationships, and I think that is where these sites are totally inept.

It is one thing to join these sites and post innocuous messages about yourself and the world around you.

It is another thing to post messages of hate, upload questionable photos, and/or use these sites to vent venom against humanity.

Several sick people have used these sites to put up vitriol against others, and some have even acted out their aggressions in unfavorable ways, such as the so-called Craiglist killer.

Others just post venom for venom’s sale. On Facebook, my son’s friend was taken to task for being black, and the poster used the “N” word and other derogatory epithets to blast this kid.

Thus, the main problem with these sites is that they are totally unregulated. Anybody who is a member can post whatever they want, and even if the messages are scanned, it can take days before they come down, if they come down at all.

And a lot of people misuse the sites by posting photos of themselves in various stages of dress and undress, opening themselves up to who knows what. And a lot of the people doing these dumb things are teenagers.

Look, the cat is out of the bag. No parent is going to be able to fully regulate what their child does online, but the kids should know better.

And the people who abuse these sites should also know better.

But the sites should know better, too, and provide for a safer environment for those using their services. Sure, there have been security tweaks on most of these sites, but only after something happens.

Now, being part of these sites, I am, I guess, part of the problem. These sites would go away if nobody joined, but people continue to sign up each and every day.

With their growing numbers, I just hope the people running these sites understand that their responsibility moves up a notch every time someone new joins.

But from what I’ve seen, I don’t think they want that extra responsibility.

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