Public Communication and Social Networks

Social networking is a major tool for swapping ideas,  staying informed, and keeping in touch with other users in the same network. Facebook is the most popular social network in Cambodia and many other countries, with more than one billion registered accounts worldwide.

Social networks such as Facebook are not always the best digital communication tool to use, however, because they are public, and the general public does not need to know all about you. Everyone who has access to digital devices has the opportunity to use a variety of digital tools, such as chats, text messages,  instant messages, video calls, or social networking, and  it is essential to choose an appropriate channel for the occasion.

Graphicidea 03

Consider the advantages and the disadvantages of a digital communication tool. The best one to choose depends on several factors: the manner and complexity of your message, the recipient, privacy, the occasion, urgency, and the need for a response. Some tools are immediate, such as chats, whereas others, such as email, are not. Some tools have length limitations for your expression; for example, an SMS needs to be short. Others, such as private messages on Facebook, permit a longer maximum. Some channels, such as phone calls, may be considered intrusive, whereas others, such as text messages, are not. Some communications are private, such as video calls on Skype, and others are public, such as postings on social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.  The following table provides a brief overview that will help you decide about the best channel to use for a specific occasion and purpose.

J well-suited  K sometimes well-suited, sometimes poorly-suited L poorly suited

Not public Public
SMS VoIP Email Instant Messenger Social Networks
Content: Manner & Complexity

My message is a brief fact.

My message contains personal emotions.

I share my experience and opinions.

I want to solve a conflict.

My message has high complexity.

 

J

K

K

L

L

 

K

J

J

J

J

 

J

K

J

L

K

 

J

K

K

L

L

 

J

K

K

L

K

Audience & Relationship

I contact my friends or family.

I contact officials.

I contact people I don’t know.

 

J

L

L

 

J

J

L

 

J

J

L

 

J

L

L

 

J

L

K

Urgency & Need to Respond

It is urgent without need to respond

It is urgent with need to respond.

It is not urgent.

 

K

L

J

 

J

J

J

 

K

L

J

 

K

L

J

 

K

L

J

 

Privacy and Sharing

Let us look at a situation with Choronai and her friends.

After finishing household chores on Saturday, Choronai meets her friends Maly and Chenda for coffee.  Choronai wants to just hang out and talk, but Chenda seems only interested in checking  her smartphone. Chenda shows her friends a message she has just received from Dina, the new boy in class: “Chenda, WKD2long, H2CUS ;-)”

Chenda exclaims, “Dina hopes to see me soon. He’s being romantic!”

Choronai retorts, “Why do you think he is being romantic? Be careful! How can you know what he really means? You don’t know him well, and this is just a text full of abbreviations!”

Chenda replies, “Maybe, but yesterday at school he asked what I would be doing this weekend, and he said it would be nice to meet.”

Choronai says, “I hope that’s true; I’ve seen messages that I interpreted one way, and they really meant something different. It is hard to know without talking to the person directly.”

Chenda shows some pictures from Dina’s Facebook account, and Choronai exclaims, “Has he really publicly posted that he wants people to join him for karaoke tonight?”

Maly jumps in to say, “That is nothing! You should see what Chenda posts every day–status updates, private images, and even details of appointments! Sometimes I wish she would think before she posts and would choose a more private way to express herself.”

Chenda looks at her friends and asks, “Why should I change?”

Both Choronai and Maly look at each other and shake their heads. Maly says, “Chenda, sharing so much on Facebook is just not a good thing to do. You’re letting people you don’t even know become your Facebook Friends, and now you’re sharing a lot of personal information with them. They know where you are when you post, and they know where you live. Maybe someone will rob you.”

“Do you really think I share too much? What would you do?” Chenda asks.

Maly replies, “I’ll be happy to show you some ways to protect your privacy, Chenda. Let’s do that this weekend.”

Then the three friends settle in their chairs to talk about their lives. After an hour, they each return home.

Later that day, Choronai cycles to Maly’s house, and together they look at Chenda’s Facebook posts. In the past hour, Chenda has posted a photo collage that shows Dina’s profile picture on the left and Chenda wearing a deep V-neck blouse on the right,  connecting them with a heart and the words ”Forever Love.” Choronai says to Maly, “You might want to meet with Chenda now rather than later. There is some ugly stuff being said about her on Facebook.”

While staring at Chenda’s heart collage, Choronai and Maly see that the post is being shared and commented on by others. Channak, an unknown person, attacks Chenda by commenting “keep on dreaming, dog” and is receiving many Likes. Somebody posts an altered photo to Chenda’s Timeline showing her head on the body of an almost-naked woman. A few seconds later Vaesna, a classmate, shares this to Dina’s Timeline as well. Maly and Choronai know they have to do something quickly to save their friend’s reputation.

 

Just like Chenda and her friends, you need to be prepared for the challenges of digital technologies and their specific characteristics. It is important to know how to communicate clearly and safely in order to avoid traps, embarrassment, or misunderstanding.

 

Social networking thrives on sharing information, uploading images, liking, and commenting. But since it is public, imagine yourself in a public setting, such as the food market. Would you share your private life with everyone there? Would you give them your address or mobile number? What kind of photographs would you show them? In order to protect yourself both online and offline, it is important to take a close look at social network safety and privacy. Privacy is your right to control what happens with personal information about you. Facebook and other social networks permit you to adjust some privacy settings, and it is up to you to use these privacy options to protect yourself online. (See Help Guide, section _______for privacy settings)

Graphic-Idea 06 “2 Timelines”

 

Sharing content with the public on the Internet includes the risk of being attacked by others. Sort out the account settings and adjust them to protect yourself as well as you can. Decide who can see your information, who can contact you, who can add content to your Timeline, and how to handle being tagged in an image. Think carefully about who you allow to become your Friend. It can be dangerous to accept a Friend Request from someone you do not know because you may not know that person’s true identity or purpose. Once added as a friend, a person automatically gets higher permissions and could post lies about you or even obscene photos on your Timeline, for example. Another potential problem is that Friends have access to your profile, and a hacker or cybercriminal could end up stealing your identity.

Graphic-Idea 07 “Play with the identity”

Besides adjusting the privacy settings, think about what you want to share and with whom. Before you post anything on a social network, such as a comment, an image or a status update, consider how comfortable you are with many people seeing that information. If you want to complain about a person, school, or if you are feeling emotional, it may not be wise to post publicly.  If you are upset or there is a conflict, consider resolving the problem in an offline conversation rather than on the social networking newsfeed.

Keep in mind that companies often look at social networking profiles to find information about job applicants or employees. They may exclude applicants who do not meet their company’s professional standards. If something is private, you should choose a channel that is more private than a social networking site to express yourself.

The billions of data points that accumulate every day from the activities of all social network users are stored on the website’s servers and automatically become the property of the site. Since social networking sites are businesses, they earn money by selling the stored data to companies that are interested in it, and they may use it for marketing purposes. Facebook and all social networks are not simply charities that are free to subscribers; they are businesses that earn money through advertising and payments for games on the sites.

 

One reason why people all over the world spend free time on social networking websites is that they like to post pictures and look at other people’s photos. People like to share pictures about their activities, such as selfies (self-portrait photo), photographs with friends or family, or photos from a holiday or a special event like a wedding. Although you do not know many of the people in the photos, you get an impression of them, and you make judgments about their appearance. If you flip the scenario to yourself, then you realize that you are also judged by others when they see a photo of you. Reflect on this before you share a photo. Additionally, it is ethically wrong for other people to share a picture showing you without having asked you for permission. Just as you have the right to decide about being published in photos, you should also respect this right before you publish a photo of others. If someone has illegally posted a photo of you on his or her Timeline, you can ask for its deletion or report the photo to the social network’s service staff.

Graphic-Idea 07 “Report someone”

Some people tend to present themselves in a sexually explicit manner; remember Chenda’s collage showing her wearing a deep V-neck top. Some posts show kissing lips, sexy clothes, or provocative poses. They are often meant to draw attention to get many Likes and Comments. That intention can turn into a nightmare quickly, however, since social networks are public, and people often judge by appearance. You should protect yourself by avoiding sexually explicit posts. Prevent negative consequences, such as envy, sexually explicit offers, stalking, and cyberbullying.

 

4.3. Respectful and Responsibe Communication

 

No matter what digital device and tool you are using, you should never forget that you are communicating with real humans and not just a piece of equipment. Communicating respectfully and responsibly is an essential condition for effectively sharing ideas and building relationships online.

 

Unfortunately, negative words and tone, hate speech, and cyberbullying are the dark sides of digital communication. Why is that? On the Internet people do not see each other face-to-face, and some individuals ignore accepted rules and ethics of social behavior. Feeling anonymous and falsely thinking that everything is permitted on the Internet, some people’s posts include insulting comments and personal attacks. Cyberbullying is the use of information technology to repeatedly and deliberately harass, humiliate, or harm a person. Cyberbullying usually targets a specific person, frequently a teenager, and can include impersonating the victim on social networking sites, spreading rumors, sharing compromising (Piseth: meaning is deeply personal, revealing) photos or videos, or pursuing the victim with unwanted emails or instant messages. The offenders often underestimate the huge effect of their harassment, and the victims often feel real suffering or fear. The bullying can get out of control, quickly spreading across social media and damaging reputations. In order to help master the downsides of social network communication, everybody needs to become involved. How would you respond to cyberbullying? Here are some suggestions.

Tips for responding offline:

  • Don’t close your eyes. Support anyone who is targeted, listen, and offer help. Realize that people who are seen as “different” are often targets. Do not participate in teasing. Set a good example. If you are the one being bullied, know that is not your fault.
  • Make the incident public. Report it to others. For example, report the situation to an older brother or sister, your parents, or other adults you trust. Tell your school principal. Revolt against the harassment. Ask for help; do not assume the problem will go away. It may become necessary to involve law enforcement; for example, reports should be made to police if there are threats of violence or stalking.

Tips for responding online:

  • Block harassers. Research your privacy settings, and block any harassers from contacting you or seeing your personal information. Change your account settings so that your address, phone number, and whereabouts are not revealed online. Delete the person from your email contacts and your phone.
  • Keep records. Save all text messages, posts, and other evidence from a harasser on your device, without altering it so you can get help and prove the case, if that becomes necessary.
  • Don’t respond. Do not respond to bullies or tell them how you feel. Bullies want to get a reaction. If you give them nothing to respond to, they are much less likely to continue.
  • Report the incident to Facebook or whatever social network you are using, by going to the report function and filling in the form. Once you have reported the incident, the social network is able to monitor the offender and may terminate his or her account for violating its terms of use.
  • Change your account settings. Consider changing your screen name and other online identification. If you fear that someone is impersonating you, create new accounts so the person can no longer pretend to be you. Notify friends and family about the changes.

 

This second list should be the first one, as we were talking first about what not to post.

 

Tips for preventing online:

  • Check your posts. If they have the potential to provoke negative response, for example controversial replies, think twice before you share. It may be better to make no comment. Watch your tone; be as polite online as you would be in person. Do not send messages when you feel angry or emotional.
  • Be extremely cautious about sharing personal information. The more someone knows about you, the easier it is to attack you online and offline. Consider not even disclosing your birth year in your personal profile in order to help prevent identity theft.
  • Avoid sharing sexually explicit and revealing photos. Once you have posted, you lose control of who can view, share, or alter the photo. Friendships and intimate relationships are not always forever. Ex-friends may post personal pictures or videos you allowed them to take when you trusted them.
  • Keep your password secret. Choose a strong password with a length of at least eight characters and a combination of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. Do not share your password with others, even your best friend. Change your password if you think someone else has it.

If everybody — victims like Chenda, observers like Choronai and Maly, and potential offenders who could become victims as well – would pull together to fight against negative tone, hate speech, and cyberbullying in social networks, cyberattacks could be more readily prevented or stopped.

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