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How Honest Should I Be on Facebook & Twitter?

Carefully consider how honest you should be on Facebook & Twitter to avoid potentially embarrassing (even dangerous) situations. Carefully consider how honest you should be on Facebook & Twitter to avoid potentially embarrassing (even dangerous) situations.

“Honesty is the best policy.” We’ve all been taught this important value our entire lives. Whether we live by this principle or not, most of us would agree that being honest is a good quality. Yet in the world of social media, is honesty really the best policy? Since the creation of Facebook and Twitter, social networking has virtually exploded on the internet. You can connect with long-lost friends, keep in touch with family across the globe, and get all the updates on your favorite celebrities. But an interesting question creeps into the minds of many when creating their profiles or “tweeting” their latest news. How honest should I be on Facebook and Twitter?

Cyberspace is a fascinating world. People become less inhibited when chatting online, and much more accepting of new friends than in real life. There’s no question that social networks have great value with regard to keeping in close contact with friends and family. Yet the fact remains that Facebook and Twitter have a potential dark side.

On such sites we may become intimate with individuals we’ve never met, and give our trust away when perhaps we shouldn’t. We’ve heard the stories of people being conned online - maybe even out of their entire life savings. Then there are the more frightening reports of individuals being stalked, raped, or even murdered because of their associations on some social network. So thinking about how honest you should be online is definitely worthwhile.

First of all, you may want to ask yourself “what is my ultimate goal?” or “what do I hope to accomplish?” by being a member of Facebook or Twitter. If you are considering using these social networks for business purposes, honesty probably is your best policy. Facebook for Business pages are a fantastic way to engage your community, keep clients up to date on your sales and new products, and drive consumers to your website. If you are dishonest or misleading, eventually your clients will realize the truth and not only discontinue their association with you, but spread the word that you’re not to be trusted.

If your goal is to meet new people, keep in touch with friends, and share opinions with the online community, you may want to be a bit more discreet with what you choose to publicly reveal. Because of the anonymity of the internet, it is much more difficult to discern who you can trust. You can’t see the person with whom you’re chatting (unless you have a webcam, but even these can be tampered with), and you don’t really know for certain if the things individuals reveal about themselves are fact or fiction.

So where does the real danger lie? Let’s say a 25 year-old woman posts her personal information, photos, and even where she lives. She gets a friend request on Facebook from someone who says he went to school with her. They start communicating back and forth, he seems really nice, and when he asks her to meet him for drinks one night, she sees no reason not to take him up on it. The truth is - anyone could have looked up her high school (thanks to her profile information), picked out a random name and set up a Facebook page as her old school chum. In the dangerous world we live in, is it really wise to give out our public information to just anyone?

The issue of what we choose to reveal also comes into play when posting personal news. For example, you’ve just broken up with your long-time girlfriend. You tweet about how you’re already over her, perhaps even call her an unkind name or two. In the following couple of days you post details about the new hook-ups you’re making (even if you’re really not). Now let’s say your girlfriend (who hasn’t checked your Facebook or Twitter page) calls you crying, begging to get back together. You realize you still have feelings for her and say yes, let’s! What are you going to do when she does check your recent posts?

Besides using good judgment, the best thing you can do is to read the privacy policies of Facebook and Twitter and think about what you want perfect strangers to know about you. Check out the privacy controls these sites have in place so you can choose who sees your personal details. Ideally, your contact information should always be kept private. With over 700 million people using social networks – do you really think you can trust them all?

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Last modified on Thursday, 01 November 2012 11:05

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