I have in several blogposts and other online media commented about what I consider the "antisocial" effect of the growing addiction to online social networks.
This, sadly true, story is however about another most unwanted sideeffect of being active and a bit naive on social networks, in this case Facebook.
Recently I was asked to assist a young lady who had found that one of her photos on Facebook had been copied to "less desirable" pages, the worst one being a "hookup" page where the message was (is) that she is commercial sexworker (please inbox me...).
It is not difficult to imagine that this is stressful and Harare is from some aspects a very small, socially tightly knit place.
When we then together logged in on her profile I have to admit that I got concerned. That she had all settings to "everyone can see, chat, interact, comment" and so on I expected, most people are happily unaware and seem to not give a damn in any case. I also expected the usual bunch of "slightly sexy photos of me posing with or without friends" that young women seem to find so necessary to post on Facebook.
But having near to 1500 "friends"? It seems it is some kind of "status symbol" to have many friends from near and afar, be they friends or not.
This made it clear to me (and I tried to get that message through) that even if we change all settings to the most restrictive there is a high risk something similar will happen again. I hope she is now weeding out all but "actual" friends.
The other finding, and that one is important, is that it is NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to get a photo or post removed if it is not on your pages.
Despite quite a few (real) friends reporting this page and the post, despite herself doing so we are all met with "this does not violate Facebook community regulations". OK, so having a hookup page where women are supposedly selling themselves is OK according to Facebook!!??
Parents, check your teenagers. Older and/or wiser friends, help spread the message. Once your photo is out there you have VERY little control over it.