Thursday, 19 July 2012

# 100 Social media timebomb

I have 699 friends on my Facebook profile. Of those, I know or have actually met 442 of them. Of the remaining 257 I have 'virtually' worked with probably about a third (ie lent clothing by post for shoots I didn't attend). Of the remainder they are generally people I have added through mutual friends and therefore probably have industry things in common with - writers, designers, stylists, makeup artists, photographers and models. Some of these people I will work with, some of them I have talked to on the internet and never quite managed to work with, but one day hopefully will.

Sometimes I allow people I do not know at all to add me, but it's rare, and every so often I have a 'friend cull' and remove those people I either don't know, or once added realised I had no interest in anything they had to say. 

I know people who have very few friends on their Facebook and even some who rarely use it, like my brother who seems to only pop past once a month or so to say 'hi I'm still here'. But as I use my Facebook for business as well, the temptation to add people who may one day be useful contacts is hard to avoid and I do add people I would like to work with or who's work I admire. The cross over is therefore quite high between my business and my personal life, hence the number of friends I have there.

Nev, the star of Catfish (source)
I mentioned in a recent blog a film called 'Catfish'. If you haven't seen it, do. It'll make you think very carefully about what you put online in future and perhaps even who you talk to online. If you're slightly unhinged, it might even give you some ideas.

I won't spoil the plot but basically it's about a family the main character 'Nev' meets on Facebook and how the story of their actual meeting evolves. It's disturbing and if nothing else, a warning.

I don't know the statistics for fake profiles but I probably have a few on mine. I know that when I was younger I used to make up fake characters on myspace. It's incredibly easy to do. I have no idea why I did it, I guess I thought they'd be more interesting than my real persona. Those days are long behind me.

If I do meet people from Facebook that I've never met it's always as part of a group or through a personal recommendation ie a photographer to work with or as part of a shoot with a team.

We don't hear much about those individuals who ran into problems when meeting people for the first time through social media. But it's a forgone conclusion that murders, rapists and child abusers would find it a useful aid to targeting potential new victims. Cases like this can't be that rare surely?  A search of Google turns up countless cases of (particularly girls and young women) meeting a sticky end thanks to the joys of Facebook.

How safe are your kids? (source)
But how can you police such a thing? For under 16s it has to come down to the parents but with the internet such an easily accessible part of life, how do you stop anyone from accessing it?

We have an enormous amount of freedom with regards to social media in the UK. Perhaps that's a bad thing? There are countries where most of the internet is censored or under surveillance and I was surprised to discover that there are no less than 51 countries on some level of censorship or surveillance including Italy and Australia! Most of them are to do with terrorism but there are countries that just don't want their residents seeing or doing anything that doesn't fit general social niceties such as social networking, pornography and news. Does this mean they are safer? Probably not and probably they have other things to worry about.

But with Facebook and similar social networks so popular it pays to follow a little social media etiquette to stay safe and keep yourself out of harms way. It's also interesting how people complain when the Government announces plans to monitor our personal internet traffic etc and yet you're probably making life easy for them, by posting most of your life on your Facebook wall. Think about it.

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