When I was a young girl growing up in my parents’ home, I came home and my mother and older brother had been going through a large box in which I kept notes, letters, and cards from friends, and my diary. I don’t know whether this was their way of ‘checking up’ on me or whether it was a blatant attempt to really violate my privacy and hurt my feelings. As you might guess, I was mortified and started crying, begging “WHY are you reading my private letters? You have not right!” My brother laughed while still holding a note from a boy I liked at the time; and sobbing, I grabbed the box and the letter in John’s hand, running upstairs to my bedroom.
That afternoon I took a book of matches, my box, and my very special memories out to the backyard. That was the first time – and only time to my recollection – that I have ever started a fire without a fireplace or barbeque pit to encase the flames. I must’ve cried into the night after walking in on that scene. But, from that experience, my Mommy Dearest taught me a very important lesson. She said, “Never put on paper what you don’t want seeing on the front page of the local newspaper!” That was in the early 60’s!
As the years have passed, I try to always be honest, open, and forthright with people, and as I read some of the things that people post on the Internet, and what they say in public, I am brought back to that afternoon with my mother and brother reading my most personal thoughts and letters from my youth. With web crawlers, search engines, hackers, background checks, etc., we have lost any opportunity for privacy in our lives.
Our global communications for business opportunities are growing everyday with one of the latest trends, be it a short term fad or a long term good way to make new contacts, Twitter, allows people the comfort of letting the whole world know what they are doing at any given time, where they will be traveling, what work they are working on, and anything they feel like “tweeting.” This can be a good thing, and has been for many people that I know; but, I also think we need to remember that every time we write a word, we are writing it, presumably for “the world to see,” not just the local readers of a local newspaper!
Are comments we make to posts on discussion boards private to that group? No. Are chat rooms safe for “free thought” and “personal opinions” under the guise of a “limited group” of people who you assume are safe to discuss your personal thoughts or opinions on business matters? No. Basically, and most importantly, remember that over the internet, in a newspaper, even a written letter, communication is so much more important in how we conduct ourselves.
While I will never promote dishonesty or deceit, I think it bears repeating the reminders of being safe on the internet with the type and amount of information given out to a world of people whom you don’t know. If you don’t want someone knowing your personal information, come up with a different screen name for yourself. More importantly, think before you speak, write, or act; because in this day and age, nothing is private anymore!
Make it a positive experience for yourself and those you come in contact. Sometimes the best lessons I’ve learned in my life are hard to take. Seeing my personal box of notes and love letters from junior high was a lesson I’ve never forgotten. The other thing I’ve learned through conversations with friends and clients is this: Even though communications on the Internet come so easily and comfortably with new contacts, remember that we are all human beings with a right to our own opinions, however different from others, and we all have feelings, some tougher and “thicker skinned” than others. This ever-evolving global community we now live in can be a great experience! If it is used properly and with care, we can make new acquaintances, friendships, and business contacts, clients and customers. What a great opportunity! Wishing you successful social networking!