Thursday, July 16, 2009

Social networking 2 - Facebook and my privacy

A confession first of all - I don't read local newspapers, and by local I mean New Zealand. NZ media, generally, is very petty and aimed towards the sensational. I prefer to get my news from The Guardian Weekly - an offshoot of the two U.K. newspapers - The Guardian and The Observer. It's a weekly summary and therefore gives balance and background to international events. Suffice to say, there are never any stories about NZ unless they are of the humorous persuasion. You know the type - sheep stories or...more sheep stories.

By boycotting local news media I am usually able to avoid the petty and sensational. I therefore missed the latest media witch-hunt of a school until a summary turned up in The NZ Interface magazine. It was Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls' turn for the spotlight. Apparently some girls were stood down for some derogatory comments about a teacher on Facebook. This provoked the NZ Herald into righteous indignation and much hand wringing about the school's powers and the girls' privacy and yadda yadda yadda. Not much of a story really. It won't make The Guardian Weekly!

My responses included feeling sorry for Dio, disappointment at the Herald (yet again), wondering what I would have done given that situation, and thinking about my Facebook page. Mainly I thought about my Facebook page.

How secure is it? Can the public access it? Am I, as a school principal, allowed a private life?

More and more I use social networking sites to publish my thoughts and opinions, and keep in contact with my network of friends and family. I have a number of blogs to do this - one of which you're reading now. I am aware that once I put things on the interweb they enter a kind of public domain. This weblog is aimed at my school community but if you look at the map of users, as I do from time to time, the blog is being read by people who have no real idea about me or my school. So it's not very private. So I, clearly, won't be writing derogatory comments about individual people.

While I'm also not making negative comments on my Facebook page and family/friends blogs I do not regard these as part of the public domain. This is naive, I know - my friends' blog is accessed by plenty of people who've never met me. Still...I think I deserve some kind of 'private' life. It just so happens that the media forum I use to keep in touch with my friends also makes it accessible to others. Will this stop me? Well, no, but it does make me self-censor.

A good lesson for those girls at Dio to learn!

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