Online Social Networking
As technology continues to rapidly evolve, it presents many new and exciting opportunities for social interaction and communication with people from around the world. Popular online social networks, such as Facebook, Myspace and Xanga, allow users to meet new people, create new friendships, join new communities and connect with people who have similar interests.
However, as great and wonderful as these networks can be, Facebook and similar virtual communities can impact your life offline. While it might be fun to create a temporary on-line identity as a party girl/guy, this could possibly create a lasting impression that affects future job applications, scholarships or relationships. The information you post is vulnerable to context, circumstance and interpretation and comes with the same rights and responsibilities as your offline actions. It is also important to note that while the University does not regularly police Facebook, Myspace or other similar sites, you may still be held accountable for any online behaviour that contravenes the Student Code of Conduct (SCC) or the Residence Code of Conduct (RCC).
Points to Ponder
Rights and Responsibilities
You have rights and responsibilities associated with any form of communication or interaction, online or offline. Although cyberspace seems impersonal, you are still responsible for treating others with respect and decency. Facebook policy itself bars posting “harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, vulgar, obscene, hateful or racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable” material on the site. In general, if you wouldn’t do or say something in person, it might not be something to post online.
As open, international communities, Facebook and other networks expose you to many new and interesting people; however, not everyone’s intentions are positive. Detailed profiles may contain extensive personal information, such as phone numbers, addresses and class schedules, which can lead to incidents of stalking, identity theft and harassment. When posting, you should only post information that’s already available in the public domain and general information rather than specific details as well as limit the availability of your profile using the privacy settings.
While Facebook and Myspace are intended to create new social contacts, you should be careful about who can see your information. Most social utility networks come with adjustable privacy settings, allowing you to control who can search for your profile, what sections of your profile are viewable and who can post comments on your wall. As an open network, anyone may join and view your profile, which may include stalkers, people who intend you harm or potential employers. While it may seem humorous to post a picture or two of you at a questionable party or activity, is this the identity you want everyone to see, including family, professors, employers and references?
Although privacy settings help you control who sees your profile, they do not guarantee that you have complete control over the information you have posted. Even if you take down or change posted information, it is still available on the internet as cached information. Additionally, even secure sites can easily be hacked and private information made public. Posting photos or blogs that include drinking or suggestions of illegal activity can exist indefinitely online, having unanticipated consequences in the future. Before posting, ask yourself if this is the identity you want to resurface five years from now.
There is a wonderful variety of interesting and unique people available online, particularly through social utility networks. While meeting people from around the world is a great way to learn about new cultures and interests, online social networking should be appropriately balanced with your offline life. Tangible offline relationships contain a wealth of depth and diversity that are often missing in online relationships where you are frequently interacting with an identity rather than a complete person.
Messages to Remember
- You can be held responsible for your online behaviour
- If you wouldn’t want it printed in a newspaper, don’t post it online
- The internet can create a false sense of safety and security
- Remember to maintain relationships offline
Download McMaster's Facebook Poster Series (PDF)
Links, Review these?
- McMaster’s computing policies and procedures website
- Read your rights and responsibilities under the Student Code of Conduct (SCC)
- Additional sources for more information regarding social utility networks
- When students open up -- a little too much (boston.com)
- How to sniff out private information on Facebook (theregister.co.uk)
- Thoughts on Facebook (Cornell University)
E-harassment violates McMaster
University's Policies and may violate the Criminal Code of Canada.
This applies to e-mail, text messages and instant messages.
Violations could be turned over to Hamilton Police Services for
IS IT HARSSMENT?
Harassment is defined as a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known,
or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Did the incident cause stress that affected your ability, or the ability of others, to work or study?
- Was it unwelcome behaviour?
- Would a reasonable person(s)
subjected to this behaviour find it unacceptable?
is a regular annoyance when using e-mail and generally is not treated
HERE'S WHAT TO DO
If you feel threatened at any time,
please call Security Services at (905) 525-9140, ext. 24281 or 88 (on
any campus phone).
If you have received e-mail that you
think is harassing, save a copy.
It will contain information that may
help identify the sender.
REMEMBER!! DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR