Privacy vital in expanding social media realms

Last Wednesday, Google released Google Buzz, a social media aggregator that allows people to share text, photos and videos. It joins Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and countless others in the social media realm.

With all of these different social media options, users can communicate faster than even before. We believe this is a good thing. Who knows where we can go from here? In just a few short years, we have gone from texting to Facebooking our friends to tweeting out to potentially millions of followers. The ability to quickly share information with millions of people can change the world. Twitter helped quickly inform the United States about the earthquake in Haiti so that people could reach out and help the victims, or contact loved ones they thought might have been harmed. During Iranian elections, Twitter was invaluable in spreading information about what was happening in the country. The ability to quickly keep millions of people informed on natural disasters, political happenings or crime is a valuable new tool the 21st century has brought us.

But social media’s powers can be used for good or ill. The ability to quickly share information might not be as valuable on a small scale. This increased connectivity means that you are connected to your peers and your boss and your mom’s friends and any one else you might choose to friend, follow or add. Sometimes people circulate in different spheres that may not be compatible – your boss might not understand or appreciate the witty comments your friends leave on your feed. Your friend posting some great pictures from that Thursday you told your professor you were sick (when you really went to Chicago) may not be a great thing. It is important to remember that once something is on the internet, it is there to stay. Even if you click the delete button, it is possible that someone could track the original file down.

Sites like Google Buzz will keep us more honest, but if you don’t want to share every part of your life with all of your many followers, privacy settings will be valuable. As more and more social media becomes available, we need to choose what kind of role we would like it to play in our life. We need to make sure our connectivity is in our control. By choosing to not share photos or by keeping your friends circle small, you can enjoy this medium without letting it take control of your life. Instead, take control of it. Maybe you’re fine with being connected to everyone, everywhere, all the time, or maybe you need to set boundaries, but figure out what role you want social media to play in your life, and make sure it does not encroach upon those borders.