Jun 15 2011

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Beware the dangers of social networking

By James J. Jackson

In just a few years, an explosion of social networking sites, such as FaceBook, Twitter, U-tube, etc., have arrived on the Internet  These sites allow us to find lost friends and family members, get and stay in touch with others.
Social networks are often used to spread prayer requests to others, raise funds, and widely disseminate information quickly.  But some use these sites (especially Facebook) like an electronic diary, spilling out every thought, conflict, joy, fear, etc., for the world to see.
Some people use these sites for emotional release, often spelling out details of an offense or disappointment in stark detail.  Many of the Facebook entries seem more like a cry for help than simple networking.  One niece entered a saga so sad, that I became alarmed, and advised her family to consider going on a suicide watch.  My niece weaved such a tale of woe and despair, that I really believed she was about to end it all.
Imagine my shock when the teen told her mother that the alarming things she wrote were actually the lyrics of a popular song about a girl who was emotionally crushed by a break-up with her boyfriend.  I was relieved, but many of the other entries I have read truly are cries of despair, loneliness or pain.  I have started a crusade to try to help young people avoid what could be dire consequences of placing one’s deepest emotions and concerns out on the Web.
One young person I know would daily tell of her sadness and loneliness, often sounding close to ending it all.  The next day, her Facebook would be full of upbeat, positive entries.  A day or two later, the entries would again be full of anguish and depression.  I advised the young lady to be very careful about her social networking entries, because she does not know what the future holds and how her entries today could negatively affect her later in life.
I gave her this scenario, “Suppose that, twenty years from now, you find yourself applying for a job with the Secret Service, or some other sensitive position.  Do you know that what you enter on Facebook today could be available to a potential employer at a later date?  Suppose that employer read your words from when you were sixteen and decided that you were too emotionally unstable for a job that requires a strong emotional constitution?
Everything one enters on the Internet, including email, is available to anyone who decides they want to read it badly enough.  Fortune 500 companies, mayors and many others have found themselves in hot water because of items they sent over email, or placed in their networking pages.
Fads have a way of gaining a foothold in society so fast that people simply don’t realize the danger that may accompany something that seems like harmless fun.  It may seem entertaining to simply display one’s life and hopes, dreams and thoughts on the Internet, but it can result in great embarrassment, at the least, or great harm to one’s reputation at worst.  It would be much better to stay away from fads, and from those who promote them.  It can be fun interacting with others on social networking sites, but beware of making negative entries because everyone else seems to be doing so. Dwell on wholesome things, and communicate only with friends who do likewise.
The Bible tells us in Psalm 1:  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

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