Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dangers of Online Social Networking (OSN)

While Online Social Networking (OSN) has gained substantial traction in recent months in India (and of course, worldwide), large aspects of it remain virtually unexplored and less-understood. In their hurry to join the bandwagon, lots of people are hopping onto the OSN train, but they are blissfully ignorant of many pitfalls and dangers of this fantastic media.This blogpost will deal with the several dangers of doing OSN. Before I start listing and explaining the same, let me make one thing clear - I am a die-hard fan and votary of the pluses of OSN, and will use it personally forever (at least, as of now)!This is a really brief and first compilation of points I wish to make. In coming weeks, I will keep elaborating more on this topic. I am also in the process of writing books on this topic, and developing full-fledged academic training programs on the same, which will be run through my institutions. Partnerships are invited from individuals (Professors / Experts / Practitioners / Institutions) interested in this big opportunity.

Before starting, here are the 3 cardinal rules always to be remebered while doing OSN

  • Rule 1 - The internet is a public domain and everything you do is visible to others, always.
  • Rule 2 - An image once created online is difficult to change. Multiple images are a bad idea.
  • Rule 3 - Just like the civilised world has its dark underworld, the clean OSN sites have their own imposters and marauders, continuously indulging in faking, duping and socialising!

Dangers of doing OSN (Online Social Networking)
  1. Improper understanding of controls Many users join OSN sites out of enthusiasm, peer-pressure or to kill boredom. But no one ever tells them that while creating their "profile" on these sites, they must carefully check and understand the various controls that the sites provide for "privacy issues". Topmost of these controls is the "share with whom" angle. As a user, you must be very clear that your data (scraps, text, photos, videos etc.) are all in public domain once you are online. Hence, if you wish other users to have limited access to these, then you have to set controls on Privacy Dashboard accordingly. Sadly, nobody seems to take this seriously. And then, later on, when they discover their personal things from absolutely unrelated sources, they are shocked! They forget that once you are online, it is all there, forever. Not only can your "friends" see it, "friends of friends" (which means practically everyone except the Martians and Amoeba) can see it too. Learning : Develop control of your postings. Think carefully as to who all should have access to what you want the world to see. Take time to learn proper controls on these OSN sites. It may feel boring, but it is crucial for your own safety.
  2. Poor visualisation of potential impact  Your social sites are visible to everyone - your friends and "friends of friends". Please remember that all that is needed is to click on the friend's name, and their entire pages will open up right in front of you. This means that your Boss, your potential future Boss, your competitor, and anyone else in the Police or Administration can easily scan through your updates and draw conclusion about your character and your intent. Most users of OSN sites do not understand that you are globally visible and your entire personality profile is visible to your BOSS ALSO. Imagine, you are due for appraisal, and your latest profile on LinkedIn carries critical remarks of your existing employer, and a desire to jump ships. All your boss needs to do is google your name, and chances are the first link that pops up on that wonderful page is your LinkedIn profile. You will not even come to know what hit you, and you will be down several notches. Learning : Take OSN sites as carefully as you take your own career. If you think your career is a joke, and you are a joker, behave like one. Else, your choice should be clear. If you are a salaried employee, and have a clean image, you better maintain it well.
  3. Fooled by "He likes my status" frequency One of the best ways to fool innocent people in OSN is to continuously keep "liking" their status, "liking" their photos, "liking" their links and "liking" their dog's tail and excrement. Conversely, if you are being fooled by someone, the best test for that is to check how many times has that person "liked" your status and pics etc. If that frequency is more than 30 - 40%, the red flag should be on. That person is playing some dirty, sick game, and desperately needs your support. Then you should go back to that person's page (or "Wall") and check his entire activity details. You should not be surprised to see that he has been liking everything everybody has been doing. Why? He is desperate. Why is he desperate? Something must be seriously wrong with his personal life, or his Career. Then, the natural question is : should you be friends with him anymore? It will be a matter of time before he starts chasing you everywhere, maybe even in the real world. Scary, isn't it? Recently, one of my friends who is the Boss in a company got an anonymous email with a picture attached, showing two of his employees swaying with liquor and cigarettes in hand(s). The email was nastily worded, and this Boss realised that some fairly sick personal party photos have been carelessly posted online (or carefully?!) and naturally, someone paid a big price for it later. Learning : People can get really dirty in OSN, and you should know that just by clicking a mouse and "liking you", someone does not become your well-wisher. In fact, your personal photos can be intelligently posted online by your so-called friends, to malign you, or harm your chances. Both the employees in the unfortunate incident above were males, and the dangers for female users are higher. Your husband may discover some picture that was inane when posted several years ago but is a bad idea today. So..
In the OSN world, the difference between a smart user and a dumb user is fairly huge. And it is very easy for smart people to totally take others for a ride. So be cautious. Use the following simple tips and stay safe.

Simple safety tips for OSN enthusiasts
  • Do not hesitate in "removing" people from your Friends List if you find they are violating your privacy
  • Be very careful in designing your profile, especially on sites like LinkedIn, as smart employers see it regularly (and will DEFINITELY see when you are up for an interview) - so if your profile carries typos/spelling errors/grammatical mistakes, may the Lord be with you
  • Do not allow anyone to post your personal photos and videos, without explicit approval. Girls and Ladies - pay special attention
  • Do not publicly display your images or videos that show you in a careless state (drinking, smoking, obscenities, driving rash, etc.)
  • Run away, as fast as you can, from "friends" who always "like" each of your status, photos, videos and your dog's tail and excrement. They are the online equivalents of the offline world bootlickers who sicken you so easily
  • Beware of individuals who suddenly have developed an affection for you - For ex. your colleague(s) from an ex-employer's place where you too worked earlier. Most likely, there's some big selfish motive at work :-(
  • It is very easy for your competitor to sneak into your friends list. So remain awake to the possibility of your stuff getting instantly shared with everyone else, always. And that's why I say that OSN is all about public stuff, not private (at least not what you do not wish the world to know)
  • Anything you do not want a citizen of Slovakia to know, do not post on any of the OSN sites. NOT ONE OF THEM
  • Unemployed, under-employed and carelessly-employed people leave a classic trail on OSN sites - high frequency positive usage with inane postings, and ultra-happy photos
  • So, what seems to be, may not be. People can forge their profiles and postings to convey a sense of amazing success and well-being, whereas they may be bankrupt, jobless or plain-simple unsuccessful. Be careful in committing your name and credibility to anyone you suspect of anything stupid
  • A single nasty comment during chatting, or a single obscene post on your wall - and press the REMOVE button. Don't think twice
  • Do not hesitate in deleting stuff you think was a mistake to post. And pray to God no one has already copied it onto their disks
  • Maintain one common image across various OSN sites. Multiple identities (totally unrelated) are a clear signal that you cannot be trusted
I don't intend to sound paranoid. This is the unfortunate reality. Remember, just like our real world has real forgers and scamsters who happily pass as respectable samaritans, so does the online world have its own fair share of such geniuses!

Enjoy the OSN experience, with all precautions. All the best!


Balwant singh patil said...

Respected Sir,
Thank you for such a deep & valuable post.We usually don't care about our profile & privacy.
Furthar i will take care such things


Topic you chose, is relevant. Thank you for posting it.

manish chaurasiya said...

Your posts should be made "par-per view" because they cover every aspect of life that is relevant today with such a fine clarity and in-depth analysis.

keyur joshi said...

Respected Sir,

Thank you for your valuable post. Really, whenever I read your blogs, it gives me deep thought about that particular topic.

Well, it's totally right to say that OSN has become an integral part of most of the individuals, especially(youngsters)! As there are benefits of OSN that we will be connected globally, we can say others about our status etc... there are sure demerits of it as you have mentioned!!

Well, I would like to mention some of the demerits as per my knowledge. Today, after having the school or colleges or tutions, the younger kids will straight away go online for chat and play games on facebook. Furthermore, if there is an exam of particular, at that time also they will be online and will keep their status busy.!! But, I would like to ask them if they are busy, then why the hell they are online......!! I mean to say, they may use Google for study but not FACEBOOK & ORKUT of course..!!

Also, OSN also can take the people in bad way!! Today, many of the people have their fake profiles and they use it to harass others.!! they are many hackers available also to harass others..!! Why the hell they are using their knowledge to do such an uncertain task..!1 I mean their knowledge can be useful to our terrific weak 'Intelligence Bureau'!! Yesterday, only my friend's ORKUT Profile was hacked!!!

To go to other demerits, today most of the employees (Especially IT COs.) would like to be online during their working status which directly impact their performance.!! They may be also other disadvantages, if one thinks of it deeply!!

Signing off!!

Keyur Joshi

Kanchan Pahuja said...

Dear sir,

it is really very important for all of us to know the dangers of using these sites..so that nobody could make the most of our carelessness..

i think every online user should read this article.i'l take care of all the ponits which you discussed here.


smthin differnt said...

respected sir..
vry appropriate blog n its helps us to protect our osn....

Anish Sidi said...

Respected Sir,

Thank you for he insightful post on OSN.It's the matter of fact that OSN is necessity rather than pleasure. It useful in every sense. Your post on OSN has further unfolding the nuances of using it. It's true that every invention has it's own peril,and the OSN too. I use almost every OSN effectively, and it really a boon for me with a caution.I always take take every step regarding posting on my OSN accounts.After it's the only platform where hundreds of people is listening you and of course watching you.Privacy tips on the given post are really helpful to the individual who is using OSN without knowing it's prons and cons.And finally after reading this I would to add one point that OSN users must remember one thing, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, so people will cautious about their privacy and they will not come under the prey of embarrassment.


Anish Sidi

Harpal singh said...

Respected sir,good morning
i am very grateful to you on reading your post,its really an eye opener that what all distinctive things we are going to face n receive because of OSN....after reading this post my perception got totally changed about OSN.

yes sir i really like ur line that "Think carefully as to who all should have access to what you want the world to see."

PROTON Harpal singh
spring - 09

Test said...

Wonderful comments everyone! Since I wrote this, much water has flowed under the bridge (in just 10 days!)I will post another one shortly covering a lot of related issues. Keep reading. Thanks!

Vinay said...

Very Apt Sandeep, its high time the generation should start taking OSN's seriously and responsibly as these things are here to stay..