Points to Ponder about Facebook, MySpace and Online Behavior

Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are as innovative as they are popular! These sites give students a tremendous opportunity to socialize and market themselves. But remember that with this opportunity to express yourself comes an equal obligation. The following are 10 points to keep in mind when you use Facebook, or MySpace, or other online communities.

  1. You are not invincible. Posting personal information such as class schedules, cell phone numbers and addresses opens your personal life to anyone who has access to viewing your profile. Very likely you would not place a placard in the front of your house or door of your room describing intimate details, contact information, private sexual matters, detailed comings and goings or anything else that someone less careful and competent than you might construe as an invitation for communication or even harassment and stalking that could prove dangerous.
  2. You have no expectation of privacy. No one is going to limit those people who are authorized to use the Internet or view Facebook or MySpace postings from seeing what you post on-line. The Internet is an open, unlimited international community. Facebook is open generally to .edu addresses and specifically to anyone with a ut.edu address. Anyone can join MySpace with the click of a few buttons and see your postings.
  3. Your profiles ARE being searched by possible employers. UT’s Office of Career Services works with hundreds of employers that are on MySpace, and even hire students with the purpose of checking applicants’ Facebook profiles. Do you want these employers to know that your personal interests include beer pong tournaments and you’re a member of a group called I was arrested at Gasparilla?
  4. Your profile NEVER really goes away. Internet search engines engage in a practice called caching, which means that if you post something on Facebook or MySpace, let’s say for a day or two just to be funny or to make a point, even if you take it down or change it, it remains accessible to the rest of the world anyway. The process to have this information removed is very burdensome, time consuming and not always effective.
  5. You are creating a brand for yourself. Almost everyone is more complex of a person than a single label can explain, but for most people it takes time and effort, if not real friendship, to get to know people’s complexities. Don’t give people an excuse to think of you in a single dimensional way. What you put out on Facebook or MySpace about yourself should be an invitation to the rest of the world to get to know you better.
  6. You are responsible for what you say. A threatening or harassing statement is personal abuse whether it is uttered in person, or posted on someone’s profile. No official at UT will spend hours pouring over Facebook postings, but if someone files a complaint against threatening or harassing use of your site or the site of others, it will be addressed through the conduct process. If an administrator does come across a questionable posting, it is common for that administrator to meet with that student to discuss their concerns.
  7. You will be judged by your profile. I will make a judgment about you based on the information you give me. Everyone will.
  8. You can cross the legal line. Untrue statements about others can be libel or defamation. Posting embarrassing pictures of others can be an invasion of privacy. Use of organization names or insignia on your site can be a copyright infringement.
  9. You can protect yourself. Use your privacy setting to help control who can access your site. Do not post anything on your site that you would not post on your front door. Do not post personal contact information!
  10. You are a Spartan! This resource offers some things to contemplate when using Facebook or MySpace, all of which can be summed up in the five values of the Spartan Code: honesty, citizenship, trust, respect and responsibility. As a Spartan, you have committed to upholding these values, which translate into productive, fun and safe use of these technological tools.

Some of the information used in this resource is from Cornell University and the University of Tampa (www.ut.edu).

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