Last week, David and I got the opportunity to hear Geno Church of Brains on Fire speak about word of mouth marketing and social media, courtesy the Louisville AMA and Social Media Club Louisville. He ended the presentation with the story of the role social media played in a pivotal, scary event in his own life as a parent. It got the gears turning in my head.
In the last year that I’ve been working with Jason here at brand-building agency Doe-Anderson, I’ve gotten the opportunity to travel quite a bit. (Which is great. Â I’m one of the few people who actually loves airports.) Â If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I don’t tweet while traveling in the same way that Jason does.
Jason posts his exact locationâ€”when and where he’s going to beâ€”as an invitation for people to know him online to connect with him offline. Similarly, when David and I have presented about social media in the last couple of months, one of the things he always says is “all my online social networking is geared towards setting up the opportunity for an offline meeting.”
You may have noticed that unlike David and Jason (well, most of the time), I’m not a guy. And like it or not, that changes the way I interact in social media.
When I was in Las Vegas for Pubcon last fall, I didn’t post my location outside of the conference if I was alone. When I arranged for Tweetups, it was always in very public places, either with other women, or with several people at a time. This seems like a simple, no-brainer thing when it comes to protecting your personal safety, but I notice a lot of people who don’t follow basic common sense when it comes to safety.
Sometimes it seems to me that people have fallen into two basic camps for a very long time. Camp Paranoia consists of the people who are appalled at the idea of posting your name, hometown and a photo of yourself out there on the big bad internet where all the predators are simply lying in wait. Camp NaivetÃ© is made up of the people who will post “Just leaving Joe’s Bar on 5th and Main for the long walk homeâ€”should’ve said no to that last margarita!” to their 5,000 Twitter followers and Facebook friends. It seems like people are either convinced that everyone on the social web is a threat, or no one is.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
Despite my relative caution when it comes to Tweetups in unfamiliar cities, I’ve probably leaned more on the side of Camp NaivetÃ© up till now. I’ve mentally minimized how visible I am online. I’ve told myself that I’m not even really “internet famous,” and thus don’t have to worry about things like cyberstalking. This is despite the fact that I’ve had at least one online friendship that did go sour, in a way which was for a very brief time really frightening.
I’ve secretly believed that among the people who know me online but whom I don’t know, the odds of any of them being dangerous are nil. But they’re not nil. I still believe it’s wildly unlikely that there’s a potential whack job following my every move online. But I can’t afford to act like it’s impossible.
This truth has hit me square in the eyes in the last few weeks. I’m not just KatFrench, social media manager and internet bard, I’m also Mom to a twelve year old boy and a five year old girl. In the last few months, my son has asked if he can have a Facebook profile. He has friends his own age who have one (I know this because they’ve friended me) and he hears Mom and Dad talking about Facebook all the time (my husband and I flirt shamelessly with each other there).
His dad and I are probably going to let him have his profile. We’re also going to carefully monitor it. We’re the grownups. That means we dictate the privacy settings and who he can and can’t be friends with online. We could put it off for another year or two, but it would just be putting off the inevitable.
Because he’s getting a profile, mine is going to be getting more private than it was. There are other things I’ll be doing as wellâ€”little tweaks and deletions and omissionsâ€”to better protect my family’s privacy and safety. I’ll probably post a “Quick ‘n Dirty Guide to Social Media Safety” soon with a detailed action plan for anyone else who is in the process of migrating from “what are the odds anybody will even see this?” to “better safe than sorry.” As with anything in social media, YMMV and only you can decide what you believe is best in terms of online privacy and safety rules.
I’ve spent enough time with at least one foot planted in Camp NaivetÃ©â€”it’s time for me to join Camp Reality.
img “dark alley” courtesy Roomic Cube
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