Friday, February 25, 2011

Online Communities and Personal Safety

We all want to feel like we belong somewhere. I know when I first started on this road I was very eager to meet people like me. I had never really met anyone who was transgender transsexual or anything remotely like it. While I am not big on joining message boards (I find they get very cliquey) they can offer a sense of community to some people. This may help people feel less isolated or at least give them a place to talk about issues in a supportive environment. Given my opinion of them I don't think I can recommend any and I won't. I just want to offer some advice on general online safety.

People tend to forget but when we communicate over the internet we really have no clue who the other people we talk to are. We also forget that nothing is private on here either. With only a little effort just about everything about you (your address, name, number, etc.) is easy to get if someone knows how to utilize technology! People can do all sorts of things with this information from identity theft to outing you publicly.

With this in mind, here are a few tips I think everyone can use in any online communication:
  • Never give out personal information!
  • Think before you post anything.
  • Understand that when you post something on the internet it can be tracked back to you... You could out yourself or even be outed by others in the forum!
  • Just because someone says they are something or someone doesn't make it true. Unfortunately there are people who are out there pretending to be all sorts of things. Never take people at their word unless you know them personally and know for a fact that they are the person they say they are.
  • Be very caution about meeting people in real life. If you decide to do this please a) meet them in a public place, b) tell someone where you are going and who you will be meeting.
Not an exhaustive list but it is good advice so please be safe!

Lastly, if you are unsure what an online forum is, Wikipedia has a good description. I am definitely the type of person who wants to know what something is before I sign up so if you're unsure, reading this might be helpful.

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