Facebook phenomenon - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Facebook phenomenon


MADISON (WKOW) -- Facebook, the online social networking site, has swept the world as one of the most popular ways to communicate quickly.

You can post photos, videos, messages, or random thoughts and share them with practically anyone. And now, it seems like everyone is on it.

Millions of people are embracing this technology as a great way to keep in touch, but in some cases, all that information could be too much information.

With a click of a mouse, and few keystrokes, people can get an intimate look into the lives of their family, friends, co-workers, even strangers. All because of Facebook.

"It was nice to talk to people who I graduated high school with, and people I grew up with who I have not seen in years," said Facebook user Janay Alston.

"I get a great deal of joy from it because, there's all kinds of people who I love dearly that I can now keep in touch with easily," said Facebook user Salem Joseph.

Facebook has 36 million users in the United States who post 14 million photos everyday, making it the 14th most popular web site.

"It's really an extension of cocktail parties, where people go and have face time with people and network," said Wayne Youngquist, a senior lecturer in anthropology and sociology at UW-Whitewater. "We live in an age where privacy is rapidly fading. The idea that certain things are private or they might have repercussions later in life seems to be lost."

With millions of possibly damaging photos, videos, and eye-opening messages, Facebook users often put themselves and their reputations at risk. Employers and even law enforcement agencies are screening the site, using the information to investigate people.

"You're not going to post a profile picture of you drunk on Saturday night," said Facebook user Tim Scully. "You want to look at it as a professional site. You want people to have respect for your."

Some users are adamant about using strict privacy settings on Facebook to hide their profiles and the content they put online.

"You can not find me on Facebook unless I open myself up so you can search me," said Facebook user Brittany Jackson.

Limiting the number of friends is a good step -- but not all people are willing to do that. The teens and twenty-somethings we interviewed have thousands more friends on average than the baby boomers.

"It's just gotten to be a status symbol," said Joseph.

Internet experts say it's not just about the number of friends you have, but how much you can trust them to keep your personal life private.

"It serves a significant social purpose, but it can easily lead into people revealing so much, they put themselves at risk and should be a bit cautious," said Youngquist.

Other tips to protect yourself on Facebook: Never post information that could locate you off line, like your phone number, street address, workplace, and the hours you work.

Stalkers and identity thieves thrive on that kind on information.


E-mail Jeff Angileri -- jangileri@wkowtv.com


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