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Facebook- more than just the watercooler

Facebook recently released “Facebook stories” which invites users to post their personal Facebook experiences related to everything from finding lost friends, to family connections, to sharing grief and beyond. When Facebook started a few years ago, it would have been impossible to predict how social media would change the way we live and behave online and how open we would become about our lives.

Now we can describe Facebook as the new watercooler, the town hall – for some it is replacing phones and other methods of communication (or simply becoming part of the phone experience – with mobile Apps that allow updates, mobile uploads of photos and videos as well as real time comments and conversations.)

We used to talk about online reputation management and security in information online in relation to making purchases online and sharing financial and other information.  Now with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others following our every move (with our full support I might add), I think it is time once again to address the impact these sites can have on your personal, as well as brand or business reputation.

We all have the facebook friends who post everything from where they are eating, to when their child has a tantrum, to when they are delayed at the airport – but now sites like Twitter and Foursquare have location based geo-tagging and “checking in” functionality as basic features enabling us to be “followed” everywhere – all the time down to the exact location.

A little nudge here to remember that everything that we put online, be it personal information about health, jobs, or the ups and downs of every day life – it will live online forever, and will paint a picture of who you are to future employers, family, friends, and business colleagues and to the billions browsing (or creeping as they say for the obvious reasons) online daily.

Not to mention the obvious privacy risks we all take when we post photos,video’s and information about where we are, who is with us and what we are doing. Everything online is trackable and everything posted will live there in the virtual universe forever.

It bears repeating that although social networking has opened us up to communicating and interacting with each other like never before, and it has opened us to opportunities to market our ourselves, network and interact with more people at any one time – we need to continue to be cautious about what we share online, and how much attention we pay to security features that are available to protect us. (although I would caution that even those are not guaranteed).

Although Facebook and other sites like it have become part of our every day lives and have opened us up to communicating and sharing information for business, within families, and across networks of friends – perhaps it is time to take a step back and look at how we use it, and how much we really share with 400 of our ‘closest’ connections.

The line is blurry, and it will continue to be  until the next ‘Facebook’ changes the way we live online again. Perhaps then we will be brushing our teeth with a mirror that broadcasts our morning beauty routine via real time streaming media – with an ad for Crest toothpaste appearing in the sponsored ads.

Have fun, live and share your stories – but be careful about how you share them online – unless of course you are one of the Old Spice men who have already bared all for millions on YouTube – in that case, it is too late to hide your day job from your 82 year old grandmother.

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