Social networks: friend and foe to the college crowd,,

What do these three websites have in common?

All three are names of online social networks.

These exciting, yet addictive, websites were created to begin, mend, and reunite relationships worldwide.

Many are familiar with, another social network where people of all ages could create a name and webpage for themselves, keeping their real identity a secret.

In the eye of the consumer, Blackplanet was, and is harmless fun, but can we honestly say the same for Myspace, Bebo and Facebook?

These particular websites are an upgrade from Blackplanet. Like many other networks, Myspace, Bebo, and Facebook allow users to upload personal photos. With this feature, many users figure since they have seen the actual alleged identity of the other user the website is secure, but this is not the case.

I am not referring to those who upload pictures of celebrities as themselves, because that is pure ignorance to believe that a random user with a picture of Denzel Washington is actually the handsome actor.

The picture you see on the screen is not always the user’s image.

Many students stay on these websites for hours at a time, while others log on briefly to avoid their studies.

Many teens and young adults get so caught up in the hype of creating a profile and building new relationships that they fail to realize the dangers of online social networks that contain personal information.

Work information, class schedules, living address; this is all information that many feel is harmless information. But what if an obsessed admirer uses your information to wait for you at your workplace or an abusive ex-boyfriend find out where you live?

We have all heard instances of users being abducted after meeting someone they met online.

These are all situations that we, members of social networks, seem to overlook.

These social networks are so popular that now prospective employers use these websites in search of inappropriate online behavior. A future employer can now use photos you posted of yourself holding liquor bottles two months prior to your interview against you. Although you saw it as pure fun, an employer might view it as irresponsible behavior that may negatively affect the image of the business.

Though these websites are exhilarating, it is important for one to know that what is displayed can be dangerous to not only the user, but to the user’s job as well.

These websites are known to be a great place for networking, but it is possible for the unwanted to contact you by using information on the website.

It is very important for users to make their personal information visible to friends only.

Although Facebook, Bebo and Myspace are great websites to socialize, it is highly important that as users, we do not get caught up in the hype of the social networks, and forget that everyone’s intention is not always the same as yours.

Brittany McCrary is a sophomore magazine production student. She can be reached at