Problems of Internet Social Communities

    January 6, 2006

Probably the hottest thing on the Internet right now, that drives ad revenues and many other things floating around the web, are the social communities. These communities, descended from the chat rooms, continue to culminate in Flickr groups and MySpace groups. But with all this warmth, love and friendship, is there a dark side?

Perhaps the primary driving force in development on the Internet has been and always will be sex. Pornography is rampant and has been from word go. Chat rooms creep up and people entertain each other through erotic discussion or webcams or what not.

Then the social networks, particularly prevalent among teenagers, are becoming incredibly popular. People create blogs, post photos, videos and other content online to share with their friends and family or perhaps even just for strangers to see.

But what do they write about or post pictures of? Teenagers being what they are, sex will eventually come up and the discussions will happen. It could be a lovers’ spat or it could be something a little more risqu. The photos could be the same way. It could be some friends cheesing for the camera or it could be someone in a swimsuit or lingerie. While people of age can legally post whatever they want, what type of safe guards are in place to monitor what’s being posted.

By sheer volume, it would be darn near impossible for various companies to monitor content for everyone but it’s something to consider. Visiting a site that supports vast quantities of photos, it’s not difficult to find shots from last night’s wet t-shirt contest or the remnants of some college keg party. Keep in mind though it’s not unheard of for 17-year-olds to be in college and possibly even attend some of these social events and end up on camera and online, doing things they don’t want their parents to know they did, and being 17, makes some things decidedly illegal. Pictures are worth a thousand words or dollars.

So what happens when these show up online? Is there anyway to control this? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with people 18 and over posting what the like online, as long as the behavior isn’t illegal. But most would take a wager it’s difficult to tell the difference in age between someone 17 and someone 18.

But the social networks will continue and they are great things. People share ideas, music, feelings, interests and tons of other things through these networks. Friendships are developed from across the globe, romances spring up, spirited debate and even long-lost relatives finding one another. But keep in mind that with all the good, there could be a dark side too, where untoward individuals look for ways to connect to people they shouldn’t, see photos they shouldn’t or possibly worse. Enjoy the networks, just remember, be aware and pay attention.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.