Creating Your Profile
Most websites now feature social networking elements, such as chatting, creating a friend list (or contact list), sharing links, or adding comments. They often require you to register before you can participate. And the registration process, more often than not, includes questions about you personally.
Before providing any personal information, think carefully about who will see it. Facts like your first name, your city and state, and the day (not year) of your birthday are probably pretty safe to share with others. But what about your last name? The school you attend? Your email address? Your phone number? Sometimes sites want us to provide details we really aren't comfortable sharing with strangers.
Luckily, we usually have to option of making some our profile information public while keeping the rest private. As you set up your account, ask yourself the following questions:
Does the site allow me to keep some information private?
Many sites have privacy settings that allow you, for example, to share your birth day without sharing the year, or to show your first name but not your last.
What information is displayed about me?
Check your profile without logging in first; this will let you know what a stranger can see about you. Try googling yourself to see if additional information shows up on the site.
Why are they asking for this information?
If the answers to these questions make you uncomfortable, you probably don't want to join that site.
Remember to be selective about the images you post. Once an image is in cyberspace, it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to anyone who can right-click it and make a copy. Maybe that picture of you and your friends whooping it up during spring break seems funny now, but what about a year from now when you are looking for a job?
For more information about privacy settings, see our page about Facebook privacy.