But while I initially didn't post many pictures of myself, I realized its benefits for sharing pictures, promoting events, and connecting with sources for my work and friends outside of work.
I've always been careful, though, to keep a tight reign on my privacy settings. If you search me, you cannot see my pictures, wall, or much information beyond my gender, two favourite sites, and my name. If I tag someone else in the pictures and it shows up on their profile, people can't click through my photos – they can only see that one.
But recently it's been reiterated to me in an unfortunate way how very public our lives have become online. Without going into details, in the event she ever sees this blog, I realized how much pictures can taint opportunities for volunteerism or employment and reputation. Yes, go ahead, post your pictures from the Naughty but Nice Sex Show, but realize that when someone is searching you to see if you're a suitable match to work with children, they may be wary. Feel free to post pictures of you in a bar with other men, drunk pictures of yourself looking like an idiot, and photos of your skipped-work-to-go-to-the-beach day, but realize that your employer might be your friend and discover your truancy, and any potential prestigious firms who may want to hire you in the future may be put off by these shows of questionable character.
Facebook has broken up marriages, ruined job opportunities, given reason for dismissal, and had countless teens grounded, punished, or banned from the computer.
What does your online footprint say about you? Have you ever googled yourself? You may be surprised what turns up. Kijiji postings, Flickr photos, Facebook posts, Twitter updates, and hundreds of other sites track who you are, where you're going, and what you're doing.
Keep in mind that even if you have your settings set as high as possible on things such as Facebook, your friends may not. Did they have that camera out in Las Vegas last week? What happens in Vegas certainly doesn't stay there... and if you're in pictures on someone else's profile and their pictures are public, you are visible to everyone.
And, by the way, do you want your photos used by anyone? Especially if you want to lay claim on your photos later, consider putting a water-mark on your photos. No one really cares about what they should do with your photos (like asking your permission to use them)... if it's online, most people consider it public domain.
In a more serious matter, if you're young, beautiful, or naive, you could very well be putting yourself in danger. At 12, posting "funny" pictures of you and your girlfriends goofing off with risque clothing or acting far older than your age isn't so innocent to some people. These people are patient, smart, and willing to prey on stupidity.
It bothers me to see pictures of some of the youth I work with, knowing everyone else can see it, and whether their intentions are innocent or not, they are setting themselves up for not only a bad reputation later in life but also putting themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.
I commend one mother of a 13-year-old girl I know, who insists on receiving every e-mail from Facebook to her personal e-mail account so she can see what is being said, what's being posted, and where her daughter is online. This girl is a great individual and would likely not even be in the position or circumstance to have questionable pictures posted or say things inappropriate, but sometimes I think kids have a twisted sense of what needs to be private. If this girl was 16, I might be a little wary about why the mother still has such tight control. But 13 is rather young, and monitored social networking is excellent.
Just as a last thought - what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. It's very easy to find "cached" material (meaning the file and info is still there but something else is currently taking its previous place on the site), and it's impossible to contain what has been posted.