The Net effect

Parents, teachers, students, if anybody asks, here’s why it’s so important to think before you post.

by Anne Collier

Just why do we need to think before we post and text? A logical question your kids may be asking you. Here’s a possible answer: because…

* online socializers and media sharers have invisible audiences
* those audiences could be small or huge (tough to tell)
* those readers, viewers, friends, acquaintances, potential ex-friends and employers can copy, paste, do just about anything they want with our content in other places online and on phones that we may never even have heard of
* what we post and share is out there pretty permanently and can probably be found – indefinitely – with a search engine
* and we can’t really be sure of how private it is.

These conditions, some very familiar to many of us but neatly packaged by social media scholar danah boyd in her just-released PhD dissertation, is what I call the “Net effect.” It’s how digital media and technologies change the equation – even though much of the behavior (adolescent or adult) is age-old. As danah (who lower-cases her name) explains, the different contexts in which we used to speak and behave – e.g., home, school parking lot, Xbox Live, classroom, Thanksgiving Dinner – are all mashed up. According to the New York Times, “much of the danger lies in the fact that, increasingly, our ‘friends’ on social networking sites are actually a mix of people – friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues – with whom we would normally share only a piece of our lives.” This is one of the real “online safety” issues for 99.9% of online-youth population (and about that many adults) – a better umbrella term is probably “digital citizenship” or “online safety 2.0.” It’s about growing up with the Net effect in place, for example, as the Times put it, “learning how not to share.” Find out how Sarah Illman – who, when she graduates this spring, “will be among the first Canadian university students to have lived her entire post-secondary academic career on Facebook” – managed all this in the Toronto Globe & Mail article.

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