My cousin started a blog recently and I think it’s quite good. The only thing was that she was very, very honest. I was reading things that I never knew about her, very personal things about friendship histories and feelings and things like that. Alarm bells went off in my head. I’m not sure if this was because I felt like I’d stumbled onto something that was intensely personal or because all of a sudden I had an image of some stranger knowing all of this information about my cousin. I have no idea how or why they’d use it but quite frankly there are some nutters out there.
The format of my blog is generally ranting about a topic, not that personal. Even still I wrote an anecdote about my old school (which I have yet to name) in a post about drinking (http://www.liz.viewfromthequad.com/?p=177) and I got a comment sometime later calling me a bitch for posting that story. I didn’t mention any names or specifics and yet I still managed to offend. Most of the spam comments I get are people from my old year which I just delete because they don’t add anything to topic I write about and also they can be quite hurtful. (By the way if you’re reading this, why don’t you say something like that to my face rather than hiding behind an anonymous comment? It’s a lot easier to be mean to someone online). Even a small bit of information can be manipulated.
In thinking about this post I looked at my ‘about’ section. Suddenly I realised what an idiot I had been. A complete stranger would know what I looked like, where I lived, where I go to school and even the name of my dog. I have changed it to one sentence “18 year old blogger living in Ireland”. Of course it was concrete information I had posted before. What do you give away when talking about your feelings? I’d say a lot. When I sent out a general question asking what people thought of those emotionally out there online many said they thought it might be a cry for attention or perhaps they were looking for someone to relate to them. All it would take is for someone to take advantage of a vulnerable person by leaving a few supportive comments and then they will have developed an online relationship with that person. Who knows what could happen then.
This kind of information isn’t just fodder to the maniacs and psychos out there. According to the survey of 1039 employees and 647 employers, which was undertaken by the employment law consultancy Peninsula Ireland, companies are using social networking sites to check the validity of staff out sick.The survey indicates that 83 per cent of employers have monitored individual’s Facebook statuses to check whether an employee was truly ill. So if you thought you were just taking a relaxing day off and then post pictures of you going out with your friends later that night when you supposedly had the flu, you could be out of a job. In fact in Clacton, England a 16-year-old girl said she was fired from her office job after managers saw that she had branded her position “boring” on Facebook. Someone I know who was holding interviews for her organisation recently said “[it was] amazing how much of their personal info was available online (including comments about how they felt the interviews had gone).” It is very easy for an employer or interviewer to find out about you just by searching you on Facebook or twitter.
When I first started writing my blog I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be a big deal. Who was going to read it apart from a few people I was friends with on Facebook? Yet I still manage to get spam comments from people advertising cheap Viagra and Russian whore services. If people from Russia can find my page you can be pretty sure it’s not as private and cosy as I thought.
Not to mention that many people I knew who had public profiles on Bebo and Facebook had pictures of them drinking or smoking in them (obviously I’m talking about people who were underage). As a general rule, if you’re ever in doubt as to whether you should put up that raunchy picture of yourself or leave a bullying comment, wonder what your mum or boss would have to say about it. And then maybe just think again.