11 Lies Social Media Hides

Searching for Facts image from Bigstock.

Social media impacts lives. When you have someone in a controversial matter like the wrong thing or say the wrong thing it can cause a snowball that can influence and even harm.

I've seen this first hand. I know people who've lost jobs, seen marriages destroyed, and organizations teeter on the brink of nonexistence through poorly thought-out likes, unfriending, and comments. Perhaps it is because I live in a small town where there are no secrets.

It makes me angry when people who should know better casually post or comment and assume things that just aren't true. So, I'm going to get these lies out on the table. Every one of these 11 has a example  that I have personally witnessed. This is real and real life. Please wake up and understand what social media is and is not.

#11 Social media is free.
Everything comes with a price. Facebook is funded by advertising. In the advertising model they need to sell advertising and need to have happy advertisers. To have happy advertisers the advertisements need to “work” so Facebook must make sure that the ads served on their site hit the proper target. Good companies know the ages, genders, and even more details about their target market. This means that as you use Facebook you are being tracked through the use of cookies (a tiny file on your computer that stores information) and your profile data (all that data you give your “friends” also belongs to Facebook.)

Although the FTC has now required Facebook to allow users to “opt in” for Facebook privacy changes, you are giving up quite a bit of freedom as you surf, particularly when you log into Facebook. What I've seen happen to students is that if a student surfs to a somewhat inappropriate site or goes to a site that they would never go to for research projects, it can effect the kind of ads they start seeing on their page.

Ads on my Facebook page today.

So, for example, a child logs into Facebook with parents over shoulder – now the child is getting seedy ads or things showing on their page that aren't age appropriate because of some iffy searching habits from earlier in the week. Parents should notice the ads coming up on Facebook pages because it tells you a lot about your child's interests. The same is true for us adults.

The result is that the ads that show on your Facebook page tell a lot about you. Shown to the right are the ads I have on my facebook page today. First of all, I'm a coupon clipper and a Mom and I do shop online – so I have two ads relating to the fact that I shop. Another ad is for an event in Tallahassee – I do like cultural events and I live close to there. Finally, I am a bit of a health conscious person and I have recently shopped for some new vitamins online and do buy green matcha tea online. I have acupuncture atlanta showing up. See how this works?

Of particular interest is an article that will be in Forbes magazine on December 5, 2011 (Facebook's new advertising model: You) that talks about how your likes of a product will now be shown in ads for your FRIENDS. So, a movie ad may show a friend who has liked that ad. Or, a store may actually show someone who “likes” that store. Their research shows that a person is more likely to remember an ad with the name of a friend in it! I see a whole new set of privacy concerns coming with this advertising model.

Just how deeply they will dig into your shopping and buying habits or if this is just being generated off of likes is anyone's guess. Personally, I don't want my “endorsement” on anything without my permission. Just because I buy it doesn't mean I “endorse” it. I buy male sports garments for my 16 year old athlete, for goodness sakes – I could only imagine how that would turn out.

#10 Social media is just social

Jane Hart's Top 100 Tools for Learning survey results

Social media has a real impact in all areas of our life. Professional, personal, educational. In fact Twitter was listed as the top educational resource for the last two years in Jane Hart's annual poll of the top 100 tools for learning.

You may use a website socially but if you go home and make a comment about a bad day (See how to lose your job in 140 characters or less) or obnoxious client or sucky boss or give out private information and everyone knows who you're talking about you will have very real consequences in your life that can extend to your pocketbook, where you live, your job and all aspects of your life. The sooner people realize that social media is life media the better off we'll all be.

Likewise if you learn something powerful or make a connection, you can reap big dividends in your life both financially, personally, and in positive learning experiences for your students.

#9 People understand context.
Imagine kids doing a project about cyberbullying and they take a photo and upload to their Facebook to grab a screenshot and film (instead of using photoshop.) It gets uploaded in school, looks like an awful event, and everyone thinks it is really happening. The students take it down but the damage is done.

Every photo you use should be real. Be careful about using your social media sites for a “project” especially on a controversial topic. If it isn't real, don't upload it. Period. Don't experiment in places where you can do permanent damage. This is why people studying to be doctors operate on cadavers not real people as they begin.

I know a student who posted a fake status update to “see what would happen.” Another student posted an April fool's joke that his house was robbed only to have the neighbors show up at their door 10 minutes after the post was made from his cell phone.

This is especially important for teachers to tell students if you allow the use of social media at your school.

#8 Profiles are accurate
People use photos from 10 years a go. They lie about their age. They may even lie about who they say they are or what they are doing for a living. Be a smidge wary when you first “meet” people particularly if you don't “know” them and decided to friend or follow because of mutual “friends.” (See #2.)

I have students who are presenting at the Global Education conference who are filming an expose called “Cute little liars” where they created a fake profile and friended kids they knew to be under 13. Over half the students accepted the request. They are doing investigative reporting to uncover why.

Facebook Terms of Service

Right now, people can make fake profiles and enter fake data, but interestingly, here in the US, the Department of Justice wants to make it a federal crime to violate a website's terms of service. If that is the case, they may have to lock up half of the 10-12 year olds I know who are all lying to get a Facebook profile. (In my opinion, this is a slippery slope- who is watching those who write terms of service to make sure that they are fair to users and how many users take the time to read the TOS anyway? They are important they are just so long the average person doesn't read or understand them.)

#7 People not on that site don't see your stuff
In fact, I've seen things people posted printed out and handed around. Just because someone is not on Facebook or Twitter does not mean they cannot see your stuff. Someone can print it out or screenshot it and everyone can see it as it is handed around at the local gas station. The fact that someone is social media illiterate gives you no protection at all from their prying eyes. (See also #2.)

Reporting requires a Facebook account.

#6 You don't HAVE to have a page on their site to be treated fairly.
In fact, you do if you're going to protect your identity. I had a student here at Westwood who didn't want to get on Facebook. However, someone on Facebook with lots of pornographic links snagged her photo from a project and uploaded it as his profile picture.

She had named her picture her first name so it turned up in google search when her name was typed. Facebook would not let her report it and would not respond to her until she had a profile for a month with multiple pictures of her on it proving that she was that person in order for them to get the other person to stop using her photo. In effect, you have no right to complain about content unless you are on that site and a “real person” to them.

It says that you can have your friend report it and her friends did report it. However, they said because my student wasn't on Facebook and didn't have any photos of herself uploaded, that they couldn't verify that those photos were actually stolen from someone because she didn't exist to Facebook.

I heard an 80 year old woman call into Leo Laporte “the Tech guy” complaining that people were making things up about her on Facebook and his answer was that if she wasn't online and didn't use the Internet that there wasn't really anything she could do about it.

#5 You have a license to your work
Screen snipping software comes with every operating system I know of. It is easy to take photos. It is easy to PhotoShop off watermarks. Licenses should be respected, yes, but know that there are always pirates. It is no reason to run to the hills but remember that if you don't want it stolen that you should take some steps to protect it – especially photos of you and your children. Those are photos that you may have problems with people taking (at least I would.) I take steps to protect those photos.

Also, if you use just about any site that lets you upload photos, you may have lost the license already. For example, did you know that on Facebook according to their Terms of Service:

1. “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it. 

2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”

This was brought to light when a woman who shot a picture and video of a shuttle launch from the air was surprised to see her video used without permission. They had contacted Twitpic, the place she uploaded the content, an according to their terms of service if Twitpic gives permission – they can have it without contacting the user. Sites like flickr support and have licenses but remember that you may not have the license you think you have if the terms of service claim rights for the service.

#4 Your password is secure
Many people use the same password for everything. Some websites have protection measures in place and others do not. You are only secure as the least secure website you have used that password on. You should have unique passwords for banking, Facebook, and email in my opinion. So what if it is a pain. What is your identity and reputation worth?

See also Lifehacker's Guide to Sniffing Out Passwords and Cookies (and how to protect yourself against it.)  If you're not logging in using https, your password is easy to intercept. Also make sure your web browser is updated. Many sites don't support https and if they do not, your password can be easily intercepted. (One suggestion worth taking in the article is: “Everywhere is that it only redirects sites in its list, so if you'd like to be able to redirect any site to HTTPS, you may want to check out Force-TLS for Firefox or HTTPS Everywhere for Chrome. Both of these extensions allow you to add new sites to the automatic HTTPS redirect.”)

#3 Delete will delete something
Delete doesn't really happen. Some companies (like Facebook) keep the original photo and just delete the link to your account. The permalink is still there. Plus you have the fact that files when deleted are still there – either in the recycle bin on on that hard drive or on a backup. Someone on this planet can always get to it.

Friends photo from Bigstock

#2 Your friends are really friends
Just because Facebook calls them friends doesn't mean that they are. If you tick the wrong person off, they'll screenshot your “private” rant faster than you can open and shut your back door.

A companion to this statement is that “your friends friends are really their friends.” Overfriending is a problem and many people got online and started friending. Although they may be more selective now, people tend to not want to unfriend people. Just because you have mutual friends doesn't mean a thing. If you accept on the basis of “mutual friends” you are leaving your vetting up to people who just may not care or were uneducated at some point about how to friend.

#1 You have privacy settings
Yes, you can “lock down” your account, but truly nothing is really private. If anyone besides you is on your page, you still have all those anonymous administrators or hackers who can get to your account through the back door or a security hole. Sure, set your private settings and “lock it down” but remember that if you don't want it shared that you shouldn't share it.

Plus, it is easy to cross post from one platform to another. You may have protected tweets on Twitter but if you cross post to Facebook and are set to Friends of Friends EVERYONE can read your tweets.

Nothing is private if it is online.

Why use social media at all?
All this being said, I am a huge social media fan. My life has been improved by social media. I have received book contracts, new friends from around the world, new best practices for my classroom, and trips to incredible places. Social media has been a very positive influence in my life. I've had my own share of gaffe's and mess ups — that is a fact!

But I think it is time to wake up and realize that this stuff is for real and that offhand comments can crush and hurt people.

Be careful what you say especially when it is in writing or electronic format. A like can have just as much impact as if you said it yourself. Like means you agree in the eyes of many because of the word that Facebook chose to use.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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