Being Real on MySpace

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Q. Everybody talks about the dangers of MySpace. I get that I need to not give out too much personal information. But my problem is with all the drama on MySpace and Facebook. People at my school use their profiles and blogs to gossip, be mean and act fake. So how do you think Christians need to be using MySpace?

A. A lot of things in life are similar to fire—they can be good or they can be destructive, depending on the use. MySpace is one of those things. The internet is like the new mall or park as a place to hang out. MySpace, Facebook and our blogs give us great new ways to meet, share and chat. That's all good. But just like at the mall or park, there are precautions you have to take.

One of those precautions, like you said, is protecting your identity. Be careful with any personal information that could help someone locate you (for instance, your address or school name—or even your last name and city). You have to assume people you don't know are going to look at what you write.

A second precaution: Staying yourself. One of my problems with MySpace and other social networking websites is that they empower people to do things they wouldn't in real life. They can be much more crude and vulgar. Or more bold in criticizing or gossiping. I'm amazed and shocked at what I have seen on some MySpace accounts of people I thought I knew pretty well. It's like they are a different person "in person" than they are on the internet. I guess they feel safe and anonymous. But my feeling is that if you are a Christ-follower at home, school and church, you should be a Christ-follower on the web also. There's no difference.

What can you do about people gossiping, lying and being fake? If you are close to them, you could try to bring it up in a loving way by saying something like, "That comment didn't seem like you." But really, the only thing you can control is how you act—and maybe your example will rub off. Pull out of web conversations that are turning nasty. Don't view friends' sites that are posting stupid stuff. Don't let the opportunity to hide behind a screen change who you are.

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