A lot has been written about how people “go crazy” on social networks. This has led many in government to say that more needs to be done to protect privacy. That many may not become employable as their poor behavior becomes public. Some have even said that people should have the right to erase their life from the internet. The right to be forgotten. Others put a big emphasis on rebuilding privacy around individuals despite the ever increasing popularity of compulsive sharing. The idea of some legislators is that the internet and social networks are bound to destroy somebody’s reputation sooner or later and people need protection from their own disclosures. That social networks show their worst behavior. That people go wild on the internet.

My view on this is quite the contrary. People don’t join social networks to destroy their reputation but to make themselves look good. Social networks have the same effect on people that classrooms have on children. Users behave better and are more honest in them because they are being constantly watched by others and want to impress them. And most social networks have “teachers” who show up in the famous “report abuse” buttons. Social networks have rules and their own etiquette and people live by them.

The fear of alienation and ridicule from peers also acts a great deterrent. Friends who frequently see what you do and think, who you know, who see your location, your pictures, your videos, your tweets, your updates, act as a moderating influence in your life. Before people occasionally knew what you did and chances for poor behavior were greater. Now they are being watched. But because most people want to be liked. They behave better. So you can see my point: living a life being watched makes people, on the average, better and more honest. And that is good.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Peter Beilin on January 18, 2011  · 

Same opinion. Got two sons and a daughter, 23, 18 and 15 yrs old, internet borned, when we used 56 kbps modems. With 9 yrs old they designed their own websites and participated in discussion lists (no social networks in the ’90’s). Never installed a net nanny, I spent my time with them teaching, their mac’s by my side. They know perfectly what’s ok and what’s wrong. They use FB and tuenti and have their blogs. I only see the positive side of the issue.
If you don’t mind, I will share the post.
BTW, I’m a mac user but in my pc I’ve got joliclud installed. It happened that lighthouses are somekind of a passion I have. And I found a pic from yours, actually is my deskstop screen… Thks!!!

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Eduardo Lina on January 20, 2011  · 

Hi, Martin!
I agree with you. Just to illustrate your point regarding good behavior: I have been using a “Facebook group” with my 10th grade English Class (15 -16 year-olds) at the school where I teach (Incidentally, kids don’t have to be my “friends” and I don’t have to be theirs, so I don’t know how they behave in their “shall I say private?” Facebook page.) In this group kids behave superbly well, not just because I have asked them to, but I guess mostly because of what you have mentioned (and I didn’t have to say). We all use English in a somewhat real (and very authentic) environment, so they learn much nore than the language. It is, then, as Peter writes, too: they know perfectly what’s ok and what’s wrong.
I can’t show you the page (it’s a closed group) but you can see something of it on this presentation
Ah! This is partly what I learned in Educ.ar when it comes to using Social Networks as didactic tools, Martin (though not just there)

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