Over the last few years the use of social networking sites has increased massively. I would imagine that just about everyone in the western hemisphere either belongs to such a site or knows at least one person who does. Heck, even my technophobe parents are on Facebook, even if it is only to play Farmville or whatever the latest craze is these days.

Other than signing up to play online games, people have a variety of motives for logging into their social sites of choice. Some people have adopted social media as an alternative to older forms of communicating such as IRC and MSN. I even know a few people who use such sites for pretty well all of their communication, preferring it to email even.

Other people use social networking sites merely as a means to pass the time. They may perform a variety of actions merely to stave off boredom, whether that be at home or (hopefully) during their breaks at work.

A smaller number of people turn to social sites in order to express themselves for a variety of reasons and some even use social media as a means to promote their business endeavours.

But, whatever your motives for utilising social media, you do need to be aware of a few things. It is way too easy to feel a false sense of comfort on these types of networks. Perhaps it is just human nature but I often see people sharing far too much information about either themselves or their business, apparently unaware that the world (and, as we know now, the security services) are watching their every move.

On sites such as Facebook, where the majority of your friends are likely people you know for real, it is all too easy to get caught up in the moment and share far more than you should. Equally, on Twitter, you can build up such a level of rapport with people you haven’t actually met offline that, again, you can find yourself revealing more information than you should.

Whilst sharing on these sites is easy, and in some ways useful as it builds relationships, you really do need to stand back and consider just how much you should be divulging about your life.

You may like to think that the people you converse with on social media sites are exactly as they seem but it is very easy for somebody to present a fake persona to the world when they are sitting behind a screen and keyboard.

You may in fact not know the people you talk to at all, not to mention the fact that people you’ve never engaged with may be reading all the information that you share.

If someone reading your timeline has malicious intentions then the personal information you give out could well come back to haunt you.

A voyeur of your status updates or tweets could be a cyber criminal looking to gain access to your online banking or business computer network. Or a traditional thief could be looking for signs that someone is away from home for a length of time. These things have happened and almost certainly will happen again.

So, when you are on a social media web site you really have to be careful with what information you share. It can really come back to haunt you in the end.

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