Social networking allows you to connect with friends and family fast. But, as with any mass congregation of friends, friends of friends, co-workers, classmates and playmates, few things stay secret. One click of your mouse can send a wave of information to everyone in your network, including the fact that you're gay. Your current mood, your favorite cereal brand, what you just had for lunch, who stole your lunch out of the work fridge...
As easily as Facebook, the dwindling MySpace and a number of other social networking sites aide in connecting the connected with the otherwise unreachable, they do reveal a somewhat intimate snapshot of our lives. Tried to sneak off to that partyon a Wednesday night? So much for a covert entry. You've been tagged in someone else's photo. Living proof you were there. Been trying to hide your crazy cousin Debo? Too late, he's already friended you. Didn't know your co-worker was obsessed with Star Wars action figures? Now you do.
When it comes to sharing with your besties, how much information is too much? Well, by now I would hope that most people realize that with powerful engines like Google, very little information is safe these days. Try it. Google your name. What I find when I Google mine are my pages here on Gay Life on About.com, my Facebook page, next my MySpace and on to another Ramon Johnson who is a 47-year-old schizophrenic man in San Jose (whom I swear is not me). What do you get when you Google your name?
Why is your social networking information important? Well, not only do employers Google juice you to "assess" your personality for possible employment, but just about anyone can see your personal information, including your sexual identity. So, if you're not out and don't want others to know about your sexual identity, take caution because Google can and will out you.
Should we all run for cover under the cloaks of analog? Well, there's no need to ditch the 2.0 digital networking tools just yet. As uncontrollable as the internet may seem when it comes to the confines of your personal information, you do have some control. You can protect yourself by sharing only what you want others to know. And when I say others, that includes family, friends and strangers.
Most social networking sites allow you to choose your own privacy settings. Opt for the level of privacy that makes you most comfortable. You can restrict your information to only those in your network or to certain individuals. You can also plead the 5th and opt out of answering which gender you prefer meeting or the reason why you've joined the network. Date, anyone?
Your sexuality should be revealed when you are ready and under your own circumstances if possible, not when Google updates its algorithm. How much you share is up to you, just know that others beyond your web of friends can see inside. Are you ready?