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Who’s watching you?
On college campuses worldwide, social networking has become an increasingly popular mechanism to sustain a social life. With each coming year, an influx of student users and accounts are created and added to ever growing online communities such as Facebook and MySpace.
These sites provide new, innovative ways for self expression, sharing information and connecting with friends or making new ones. While the networks were originally established and moderated in good faith, today the safety and privacy of their primary users is objectively scrutinized.
Launched in 2003, MySpace describes itself as a “place for friends” and attracts 230,000 users per day. College students and parents alike have increasingly developed a more deviating opinion of the site’s environment. Considered a “playground for predators,” safety issues have continued to spiral out of control. MySpace recently announced that some 90,000 registered sex offenders were identified and barred from accessing the site over the past two years.
When brought to the attention of students on Quinnipiac’s campus, some regarded the shocking number of sex offenders identified as not surprising.
“That’s what MySpace is,” sophomore Adam Horgan said. “It is for creepers. There are no safeguards.”
Sophomore Delene Cort expressed similar feelings. “MySpace is used for stalking,” she said. “I just think they have a lot more to go.”
While safety and privacy issues continued to generate buzz, MySpace began to take a backseat to Facebook. Facebook became a more prevalent social networking site initially limited to college students. With the site’s powerful privacy rules embodying a real-name culture with social verification, students are at ease when using the site.
“I feel like Facebook is safe,” sophomore Bianca Payne said. “With a limited profile or preferred privacy settings, you can make it so that you don’t exist to people.”
Horgan, who also agreed that Facebook is a safer alternative, believes that the site is accessible for beneficial purposes as well.
“For orientation, we set up meetings and groups for students online,” he said. “You can use the site as an advantage or a disadvantage.”
Originally, Facebook membership was restricted to college students and registration required the use of a college domain. However, with the site generating such high volumes of traffic, it has stretched to include anyone ages 13 or over. Such an extension has unhappy college students considering the site to be infiltrated.
“Facebook should be more of a college thing,” Cort said. “That’s what I thought it was when I first got one. Now it’s starting to be like MySpace.”
As Facebook continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly common for business officials and police departments to secure access to profile features.
According to Kim Bornstein, a sophomore member of the Greek organization Alpha Chi Omega, Greek life is enforcing bylaws that regulate what can and cannot be publicly listed on the profiles of its members. Such restrictions include publishing addresses and accurate phone numbers. Additional Quinnipiac offices, including the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, have also considered requiring student workers to “block out” their Facebook profiles.
As both MySpace and Facebook officials continue to buckle down on the amount of predators accessing the site, students must also take such precautions.
“I un-tag myself in any controversial pictures that I am in,” Horgan said. He is assured most college students probably do not do this but advises they should.
“I feel either [site] is safe,” sophomore LaTanya Gomes said. “It depends on your values as a person and who you add. Don’t add people you don’t know. The safety restrictions on both sites are adequate enough to keep you private. It’s up to the user to take advantage of it.”
And the consensus agreed when used intelligently, networking sites were fairly harmless.
“I only add people I know and who are my friends,” Payne said. “Meeting people randomly off Facebook and MySpace is stupidity.”