Reuse and Recycle Your Web Presence
The Web is the two-edged sword of the 21st century. It's the good, the bad, the pretty and the ugly. It's a wonderful world where helpful information and useful products are shared freely. But, on its dark side, predators lurk in the corners, waiting for an opportunity to rob us. Avoid the bad guys. Be safe, surf smart!
Today let's take a different route to recycling and talk about reducing, reusing and recycling our online personalities to make our Web travels as safe and pleasant as possible. I've been on the Internet since 1984 and, over the years, I've noticed some changes that have me concerned. I'd like to share these concerns with you so that we may change the tide and keep the Web a clean, healthy and positive place to gather together.
The Mystery of the Unknown Relative
As my mom found out recently, even an innocent post can wreak havoc on a person. Mom's name and the city in which she lived were listed in an online obituary. Mom wasn't alone in the list, there was a long list of relatives. That announcement, meant for family members, almost cost my mom several thousand dollars.
Mom received a phone call from a man claiming to be her nephew, he was in trouble and needed money. She was ready to open her checkbook but decided she needed to be certain of this man's identity. She did the smart thing. The man was an impostor. What if she had given in to her emotions to help someone she had not seen in decades?
How do we protect ourselves from online predators?
The Case for Privacy
Do you have friends that post pictures of their every waking moment? There are people on the Web that I've never met, but yet I've seen every day of their child's life. It's been a virtual tour of the child's first ultrasound, first breath, first time at church, first solid food, first birthday and first Christmas.
How do we protect our right to privacy?
When TMI is Too Much Information
The search engines encourage people to tell their personal stories. Maybe personal isn't the right word. Some writers take this encouragement to a level that is uncomfortable for many readers. I love reading stories about how people overcome challenges and adversities. I feel uncomfortable when these stories shed a bad light on another person. I quit reading stories that only talk about the negative side of the story without showing how the problem was overcome. This negativity is not productive.
How do we protect our integrity?
What Can You Do?
Avoiding predators, safeguarding privacy and promoting integrity are big jobs and these are essential jobs if the Web is to remain a safe, clean and healthy place to play and work. Here's how you can make a difference.
Reduce the Information You ShareReduce references to your residence, place of work, birthdays and other personal details. Share only details that are essential and necessary. Make it hard for thieves to find you.
Reuse Photographs and ProfilesIt's not necessary to flood the Internet with photos of every moment. Sometimes it is much more effective to reuse a few select profile pictures, pictures of family members and other recognizable images.
Recycle Unproductive InformationRecycle any negative comments or feelings to the trash bin. Nothing is gained from an online rant or complaining session. On the Web, when you say something bad about a person or product, your comment cannot be erased or forgotten.
As a Web writer who shares personal stories in how-to articles, recipes and family tales, I always ask myself a few questions before I click the Publish button.
- Would I share this with an absolute and total stranger?
- How much of my personal life do I want exposed to the entire world?
- What impact will my story have on the lives of others?
- Does my story share a useful skill or give the reader a positive feeling?
Giving a story or blog post time to sit before I publish has always been my best protector. Before I make a story public, I read every word, sentence and paragraph with a critical eye. Anything that I feel will put me in harm, violate my privacy or tarnish my reputation is tossed in the trash bin.
Until next week, be safe.
Until next week, be safe.