Due to social media making it easy for people from all over the world to connect, many people have experienced the infamous “internet safety” talk. In this current time it is the first of many talks, besides the birds and the bees, which we are all dying to avoid.
Adults often discourage meeting people on the internet for fear of them being out to hurt others. There are people like this who exist, and if you do choose to interact with people online, make sure it is done safely. However, the people you meet on the internet can also become great confidants who will encourage and support you, and can also help you with your future goals.
Beyond friendship, the internet also has the ability to create a business opportunities. Through websites such as LinkedIn, both youth and adults are able to connect with possible employers. The Prospect is an organization that I found through social media. It would never have come under my radar without it and from it I, and many other interns, have gained work experience in fields such as marketing and journalism that are not easily attainable for young people. The chance to have work experience on ones resume looks extraordinary and it can all happen from behind a computer. Through situations such as this the chance to create a long lasting impression with your employers will enable you to have a person who can refer you to other companies in the future.
Now on to the nitty gritty, the friendships I mentioned above. While I don’t know much about internet dating, I do know quite a bit about internet friends. You can make friends across many social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and even Myspace (for my old schoolers). The best thing about people on the internet is that they don’t necessarily know about your social status, or embarrassing past. You can start afresh and connect with people who have similar interests without having them know about the time you accidentally called your teacher mom during class. Finding people with similar interests is wonderful because then you will no longer have to bug your other friends about things they aren’t necessarily as excited about. The friends you do make online can often times connect you to more people who you can befriend.
For example, one community (also known as a fandom) that is based on the internet are the homestucks. They all seem to be very nice and welcoming to those who are new to the group, and are willing to scoop them up, and take them in without question. If you are joining positive groups such as this, then you’re headed in the right direction.
As far as safety goes, at all times, be smart. Never give away personal information such as your date of birth, full name, address, school, or anything else that could be used to track you down. The safest method in my opinion would be to use an alias until you have successfully google stalked the person fully, then give them your proper first name, and begin to get to know them.
Right now you may be asking why it is necessary to take so many precautions and the answer is because the internet DOES have dangers, even though it is not completely dangerous and good people can be found. If you do agree to meet someone make sure to let multiple people know of the place, time, and appearance of the person you’re meeting. I advise that rather than relying merely on a picture of someone, since those can be faked, you request to video chat with them through a provider such as tinychat, google hangout, or skype.
While internet friends are great and all (and you probably call them your real friends) don’t forget about the relationships that you have made with people you interact with face to face. These people are often those who care about you more than most and are willing to help you with anything you ask. I encourage you to create both e-friendships as well as friendships with your peers in order to avoid destroying bonds that could have been saved. Do not be afraid to make new friends, no matter the method, but always be safe while doing it.