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Tweetin’ Sour

5 Simple Rules To Make You A Better Social Networker

1)    Know Your Network

A 2013 report by the Pew Research Center estimates that 95 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 – 17 use the Internet regularly, and over 80 percent of them use social networking sites. That’s a lot of time to spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, or even the three of you who are still on MySpace (it’s understandable, who wants Tom to be lonely?).

Most social networking sites fall into one of three categories: personal networks that allows you to stay connected with friends (like Facebook and Snapchat), content-sharing networks (like Twitter and Pinterest), and shared-interest networks (like LinkedIn and Flickr) where users can learn about things that specifically interest them individually. It’s important to think about what information you post based upon the network you’re using: while you may be super excited about the new Doctor Who,  your boss on LinkedIn probably isn’t the best way to share that.

2)    Take Advantage of the Benefits

There are several personal benefits to having social networking sites: the ability to stay connected with people physically far away, to The first is connectivity: you are able to be friends with so many people around the world that is very hard to feel isolated and alone in the world. Plus studies have shown the more friends you have on Facebook, the higher your self-esteem. The second is independence and being able to express yourself clearly. If you have a niche interest, chances are you will be able to find others who have the same interest online and talking with others will allow you to learn more about the subject you are interested in freely. Lastly and the most important, is digital competency. With the rapid pace technology is developing, the youth of today are able to learn and assimilate how to use new tech faster than it is produced. This allows for increased speed in other things, be it research or even simple things like typing.

3)    Once It’s Out There, It’s Out There

Yet, not all things about social networking are good. Keep in mind that the internet is a tool and just like any tool, it can be abused and misused. Cyber-bullying has risen in today’s world, which is incredibly hard on those who are bullied in real life and it follows them home on their computer.

As mentioned in another one of these articles, everything you put online is still there in some capacity which can affect your application for jobs in the future. Additionally, identity theft is prevalent with those who are gullible, foolish, or just unlucky in dealing out their personal information online. Not only that, but there is a high chance for someone to get involved in the “wrong crowd” and put them at risk for victimization in some capacity. In all seriousness, I cannot stress the importance of privacy settings. You, my dear readers, need to stay safe.

4)    Remember the Human

Before the trolls took over, there actually were some original Rules of the Internet, and the First Rule was pretty straightforward: Remember the human. The golden rule your kindergarten teacher taught you was pretty simple: Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you. Stand up for yourself, but don’t hurt others’ feelings. That’s what you should do when networking online. Or as social media site Reddit puts it:

When you communicate online, all you see is a computer screen. When talking to someone you might want to ask yourself “Would I say it to the person’s face?” or “Would I get jumped if I said this to a buddy?”
 

A 2013 report showed that 15 percent of all high-schoolers have been bullied online (though this number is likely greater, because teen tech use changes rapidly it is difficult to design surveys that accurately capture trends).  Cyberbullies use the anonymity of the Internet to spread their attacks, because they wouldn’t want to say it to their victim’s face. Remember that before you post. Remember the human.

5)    Keep Calm and Cyber On

There are some things that you can do to prevent yourself from falling prey to cyberbullies: avoid posting things that could be embarrassing to you or someone else, change your personal settings on social networking sites so only friends & acquaintances can see/share your content, don’t share your passwords publicly, even have a parent or trusted adult follow/friend your profile so they can help when you’re in trouble. But what should you do if you encounter a cyberbullying attack? These could happen at any time.

According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, the response should start immediately. First, <strong> don’t respond to and don’t forward cyberbullying messages. </strong> Keep the evidence of cyberbully attacks, including screenshots when possible. You should also report these to online service providers (who may cut off the user for violating their terms of service), to local police (in cases of explicit messages, threats of violence, or privacy violations), or to the school (where there may be related cases of in-person bullying).

The Internet can be an amazing place if we all work together to keep it that way!