Friday, January 16, 2009

Social Networking Warning

In the past week, I have heard several different stories about something which I found very disturbing. Three different people are getting a divorce and in each case, someone in the marriage was involved and addicted to Facebook. At the risk of sounding like a worrywart, I decided to discuss this today.

Social Networking can either be harmless or harmful and there is a very fine line between the two. If you are married, you need to be extra careful about the way in which you social network. If you are just socializing, then I recommend doing so with friends of your same gender and social situation. A married woman talking to a single male or even a married man talking to a married woman several times a week through social networking can lead to disaster. If you are your spouse is involved in a ‘friendship’ like this, you need to ask a few questions.

First, would you feel comfortable having your spouse read over your shoulder or reading your backlogs of conversation? If this question makes you squirm a little, then you need to disconnect the friendship and spend the time with your spouse or if they aren’t there—writing letters to your spouse. It’s too easy to flirt across the internet whether it is intentional or not. Many times messages get mixed because you obviously can’t hear the person’s tone of voice, catch sarcasm, or other inflections which might help you deduce the meaning of a conversation.

In one of the cases of divorce mentioned above, a woman was spending hours each day on Facebook chatting with people. She even got up in the middle of the night to “work” on the computer. Her husband found several males giving out their phone numbers and discovered that she had met up with someone she met online. A family with four children has been torn apart by something as “innocent” as social networking.

I’ve stated many times in previous posts that you need to decide what your purpose is when you start social networking, follow safety guidelines, and set rules for yourself. I would like to add that you need to also be aware of your family’s activity on the computer. You and your spouse should be completely open as to what you are doing on the internet. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you don’t want to be nosy when your spouse is acting suspicious. Ask questions and get answers.

I’ve also talked about installing an internet filter called K-9, click here for more info, which will give you a history of what has been accessed and allows you to block social networking altogether if you feel the need to do so.

Talk to your spouse about what you both feel is appropriate activity online and what you are comfortable with. Set boundaries and don’t go beyond those. Don’t ignore this warning and think that it could never happen to you.

It makes me very sad to hear about families falling apart, about kids being torn between parents. I know there are always many circumstances which contribute to divorce, but there are also many things we can do to prevent problems. If you are doing something that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with your spouse, ask yourself why that is and then ask yourself what you can do to strengthen your marriage.

Remember, social networking can be useful and entertaining if you follow the rules. I’ve had very positive experiences so far with Facebook, but I also just don’t have very much time to spend there and I only allow my friends to see my wall. I’ve reported my experience with a few other social networks I’ve checked out, you can go to my archive list to see some of those. In nearly all forms of recreation I can think of, there are rules and safety guidelines, including equipment to help you enjoy and be safe. So before you social network, put on your helmet and make sure you know how to swim.

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