In the last year or so, the digital world of cyberspace has presented college students with new methods of meeting people and organizing social networks without ever leaving the comfort of their dorm rooms. This seemingly innocent concept first materialized online in 2003 in the form of MySpace.com, and then again in 2004 with Facebook.com. While conceived by different founders, the two Internet portals have much in common. Both allow users to post personal information, from photographs, favorite movies, and hometown addresses. Each site allows you to search for and add unlimited “friends,” granting users an easy-to-access hyperlink list to the profiles of both their friends and acquaintances alike. Social groups are also popular on these sites, with eye-catching names such as “I Love Lamp!” or “I’m still going to be sexy in 20 years!” Perhaps most importantly, both sites are free of charge, allowing anybody with an Internet service to sign up and log in.
There are, however, considerable differences. While both present no financial limitations, Facebook only allows users with an official University email account to register an account. Additionally, Facebook only allows users to look at profiles within their own college populations, aside from reciprocal “friends” from other schools.
MySpace is tailored to a more diverse population. In addition to allowing users to post journal entries (or “blogs”), MySpace allows no restrictions on who can
view your profile. Essentially, anyone from your parents to your teachers, or even your little brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, this also leaves the door open to Internet predators.
MySpace and Facebook have recently been the center of nationwide attention.
According to MSN.com, an arrest was made no more than a month ago in Connecticut involving a 21-year-old sexual predator accused of raping a 14-year-old girl, an encounter that began, innocently enough, through MySpace. Around the same time, a 16-year-old girl from Long Island was sexually assaulted when meeting in person with someone she had met online through MySpace.
While Facebook might seem safer than MySpace, in some ways it is actually more dangerous. Facebook allows you to post not only your phone number, but the building that you live in and specific room number. If you’re a commuter, it allows you to post your home address. And while Facebook requires an authentic
email address to register, it is all but too easy for someone dangerous to stealthily log in through a friend’s email.
What’s the solution? Quite simply, students need to realize that when they post something online, they are literally broadcasting that information to billions of curious eyes; precautions must be made because posting address information and phone numbers is just asking for a prank call or worst, a personal stalker.
Additionally, one should be weary about what photos one posts on these sites. As of recently, employers have begun using MySpace and Facebook to examine potential employees and most likely will make decisions based not only on their interviewing process, but on the character they see represented in the online profile.
Furthermore, campus police in college all over the nation are using the information found on these sites to track down students breaking University policy.
So before you post up that hilarious drunken photo of yourself, keep in mind that it’s not only the eyes of you and your friends that are enjoying your personal profile: it’s the entire world.