With the grand-scale eruption of online social networking sites, forums and blogs – buoyed by the plethora of smaller, faster and smarter enabled-devices – anyone who is anyone nowadays can probably count on one hand their acquaintances who do not network, socialise and share online.
Yes, the Internet and smart-phones have opened up previously-unimaginable opportunities to connect with people. But, how good is it for your relationships and business really?
Richard Broeke, security consultant at local IT security company, Securicom, says leveraging the Internet to connect, communicate and network has numerous benefits – obviously. However, he believes people need to issue some restraint with regards to the type of information they share – and with whom.
“Of course, you can have top IT security measures in place to protect yourself against programmes designed to plant themselves on your system and harvest personal information, passwords and internet habits.
“But, no piece of software can protect you from yourself. Your Internet presence, if you don’t manage it carefully, can cause you some trouble. There really is such a thing as ‘TMI’, the widely-accepted abbreviation of ‘too much information’, particularly when you’ve got an equally no-holds-barred approach with regards to who you share it with.
“With the number of platforms the average online networker belongs to, people are sharing massive volumes of tid-bits of information with a bewildering number of people. If you think about it, they are engaging in a form of mass marketing, which is fine if they are careful about how they are marketing themselves.
“It’s been said a thousand times before, ‘be careful what you put into cyberspace about yourself because it could compromise your future jobs prospects and your personal and customer-relationships’. Yet, people are still extremely blasé about publishing information and photos of themselves on the net.
“Of course, you can use the various networks and platforms to work for you. But, when you’re receiving updates on WhatsApp or BBM about your doctor’s wild weekends away, or your child’s teacher’s drunken nights on the town, it doesn’t take a genius to understand how wantonly sharing information with masses of people could be bad for your reputation or business.
“Furthermore, the lines between reality and the virtual world are becoming increasingly blurred, which means so are the lines of privacy. It’s not uncommon to see couples at restaurants not even speaking to one another as they pursue their online endeavours on their phones. With the ‘always-on’ approach that people have nowadays, no time is a bad time for anyone to drop you a mail, message or call. Not even your personal downtime is sacred if you don’t define the limits to protect your privacy.
“People also always know where you are. Whether out for dinner, away on holiday, or in the doctor’s waiting room, you can widely-publicise your movements for all your contacts to see. That’s great if you don’t mind people ‘watching’ your every move, and if you know whose watching. This obviously begs the question, how well do you really know the people you socialise with online and the numerous contacts you have saved in your phonebook? There are inherent security risks associated with announcing your every move to people you don’t really know. Just think about it.
“Cyberbullying, cyberstalking and identity theft are some of the more ominous threats associated with having an online presence.
“We’ll never say that people shouldn’t be connecting, conversing and transacting online. It’s the way of the new world. However, we encourage people to be savvier about what, how and with whom they share. Don’t be naive, be careful.”
Richard Broeke, Securicom security consultant