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Jasmine Birtles 10th May 2010 No Comments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There’s a good article in today’s New York Times about the ‘Tell-All’ generation realising that they need to keep some things private online. About time that they realised!

Apparently, according to research by the University of California, over half of young people (late teens and twentysomethings) have realised what many of us thought from the start – that letting everyone see everything about your life can be harmful in all kinds of ways.

  • Pictures of an undergraduate half-drunk and semi-naked might be hilarious for close friends but are thoroughly unimpressive to prospective employers.
  • Information about where a teenage girl lives, what kind of boys she likes and what she thinks is romantic is fascinating to her best friends…and also to paedophiles, as we have seen in some recent tragic cases.
  • Information about where you live, what you do for a living, what your date of birth is, what your mum is called and when you’re going to be on holiday is all truly fascinating information for identity thieves and local burglars.

It’s important to keep as much as possible private when you’re on social networking sites – particularly Facebook. You even need to be careful of private data too. Last week Facebook had a leak which meant that anyone could see anyone’s private information for a while. Not good!

Why doesn’t Facebook do more to help people protect themselves? Simple answer – money. The more information you put out there the more the advertisers know about you and the better they can target their ads specifically at you. Social media may look friendly but it’s fundamentally business. Every other entrepreneur I meet at networking events tells me they have a business idea based on social media.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use it at all. Used carefully it can be helpful and interesting. I like Twitter and I enjoy following comedians (John Cleese, Graham Lineham – writer of Father Ted – Simon Pegg among others) for a laugh and I get useful, immediate information from good money bloggers (Annie Shaw of Cashquestions, tweets from The Economist, Thisismoney, Julian Knight from the Independent for example). It’s fun and a handy way of getting some messages of my own across (I’m @Jasmine – early-adopter, see, which is why I got to nab that name!).

I also have a Fan page on Facebook (just look for Jasmine Birtles or Moneymagpie – we’re both on) which I should use more than I do (see, I’m in it for the business advantage too!). But whatever I put on either of those (and LinkedIn come to think of it) I think about whether it’s stuff I would be happy to have published in newspapers or broadcast to the nation. It’s not a bad way to look at it – would you like what you’re writing in your personal page to be broadcast on national news? It’s pretty much what you’re doing when you allow the world and his live-in lover to see everything about you.

Finally, my other main reason for hoping people will make less information about themselves available online is that we have to quieten down this constant noise of trivia that we’re bombarded with every hour of the day. Useful information and genuinely funny comments are great. But the minutiae of people’s moment-by-moment lives? Aargh! Save us…really….it truly is case of less is more. Let’s make it a LOT less.

Check out this article for yet more information on how Facebook takes your private details, locks you in and turns you into a moneymaker by spreading your details around advertisers. It’s the tip of the iceberg – you have been warned!

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Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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