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Facebook's Dangerous Disconnect

Facebook's Dangerous Disconnect

Previously we've seen a steady trickle of stories where people's actions on Facebook have had unintended consequences for the person.

In the past it was just the odd dodgy picture landing a person in hot water or a perspective employer getting wind of a job applicants boozy lifestyle. More and more often we are seeing the stakes for these Facebook faux pas get higher and higher.

One that will have brought disgust and wry smiles in equal measure was the story of a criminal who acted contrite and remorseful in the courtroom only to boast on Facebook about how he'd conned the system to get a lenient sentence. The courts found out about this and increased this sentence. Effectively that person lost 18 months of their life due to a post placed on a social networking site.

Add to this the jaw dropping story of the juror who, while a trial was still in progress, contacted a defendant on Facebook and exchanged messages about the trial. In this case the juror has been told to expect a custodial sentence.

These are extreme cases and nothing new. We saw a few years ago two publicly funded UK tennis starlets publicising their less than professional but typical teenage partying via their social network accounts and getting themselves in hot water.

They go to show that a lot of people still haven't made the connection between their online lives and the real world. What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas but if it goes on Facebook then there are 6 billion people who might well find out. The problem is that at the time it feels like it's only the two of you in the room!

It's a level of abstraction that people seem to have to learn the hard way. From private correspondence like letters and phonecalls to the online equivalent of emails and online messaging is a perfect fit, people however seem to have tunnel vision when it comes to social networking. For some many people the penny just hasn't dropped that they are leaving messages to each other on an almost wholly public forum. Although at the time it feels like a conversation it's so easy to forget that their messages that will leave a paper trail long after they've logged off.

This is a perhaps a growing pain but while people continue to use these public conversation mediums for their private correspondence we will see more and more of these cases.

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