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It’s all too easy to exert complacency within the domain of social networking nowadays. With so many friends and family a click of a finger away we become comfortable in the virtual environment, posting personal snippets and images of our lives, forgetting that this is in fact a window to more malicious potential and people you are unable to trust.

This article aims to outline the five social networking habits and actions that you should aim to avoid as a college freshman.

1. No privacy settings

Whilst you may feel comfortable with yourself and rate yourself as an open person, you should think twice before you allow just anyone to see what you are doing. The social networks many of us peruse often are very misleading and appear to be a social ring between us and our friends, but in actuality you are laid bare on our global internet connection, optimised in search engines and allowing just about anybody to look into your life and use your information to exploit you.

It doesn’t take long to do some research on the amount of individuals who have had their relationships, careers and schooling inexplicably destroyed as the result of an outsider or hacker exploiting this lack of security. 

2. Watch your mouth

Whilst it may be perfectly acceptable to use expletives in the company of your friends, keep in mind that you’re likely to have a whole range of audiences befriended on your chosen network. Your best friend won’t mind vulgar jokes but your grandmother might have a word or two to say to you about it! The last thing you want as a freshman is your grandparents berating you openly on your page.

3. Don’t get distracted

Social networks are a great way to communicate, especially with new friends. They are also fantastic for planning events, meeting new people and playing games; but you need to learn to control these advantages. Exercise them too much and they can impact you negatively.

Never forget the foremost reason for you being at college – to study, to earn your qualifications. Remember how far you’ve made it already and keep up the hard work. Try to limit the hours you dedicate to networking and plan a study schedule so you know you’re keeping up with your course.

4. Stick to college rules

Often workplaces will have regulations about what you can and can’t post on these sites (yes, even in your personal time). Insulting your employer or company in a public domain reflects badly on that business, and colleges are no different. They care about their reputation and their public image, so they’re not going to be happy if they hear about you posting obscene comments about them.

You might think that you’re safe to discuss this openly in your own time but more and more we hear about employees being fired over comments displayed on their pages, or police investigations into cyber hate etc. A general rule is if you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, don’t say it on your network. Social maxims are best kept to at all times even in virtual conversation and this is also the polite thing to do.

5. Don’t post explicit images/videos

Perhaps you’ve recently taken a revealing picture of yourself, or have been captured in a compromising video. Like the above points, if this media is spread to the wrong hands this can be very damaging to your reputation with your peers and even affect your standing at your college.

Ensure this kind of thing is kept private, not only is this material inappropriate it is forbidden on most social networking sites and could result in your profile being banned – cutting you off from necessary connections and resources.

As long as you keep within the above lines of advice and use your common sense, you should get through college just fine and get the most out of your networking during your time there.