Social networking on the Web is very popular. It's become a major mode of communication between friends. Sometimes what's posted is meant to be private – but turns out differently.

Just ask Congressman Anthony Weiner, who sent lewd photos of himself to an intended individual, but they ended up becoming national news.

Then there was Albuquerque police Detective Trey Economidy, who made headlines for listing his job description as "human waste disposal" on his Facebook page.

Economidy had received "significant" discipline and was transferred from the APD Gang Unit to the Field Services Bureau.

This week the Lehigh Valley Industrial Development Corporation fired an employee for putting a post on Twitter about leaving work early.

We could cite literally hundreds of examples of people getting into trouble over social networks. The Web can be like a spider in which users with poor judgement become the trapped fly.

Local postings that we've personally seen include disgruntled employees, people leaving for vacation, personal problems, dislikes for named individuals. All these can result in serious backlash.

For example, posting that you're going on vacation or will be spending time in the hospital could mean you might return home to a house that has been burglarized by a criminal who saw your posting.

Even if you have private settings on your networking sites, the message you send might be forwarded by one of your 1,000 plus "friends." Or, hacking is not uncommon on the social network sites. Then there's always the risk, as Rep. Weiner found out, of pushing the wrong button and sending it to the wrong place.

It used to be that communication was standing at the fence and having long chats with your neighbor. Of course, that was in the "good ole days." Not too many people do that any more.

Another mode of communicating back then was writing a letter. That's too time consuming, it takes too long for the letter to arrive, and postage is expensive.

So, today the means of speaking with friends, relatives, and neighbors is social networking. The problem is that if you make a social error, others find out instantaneously. Further, what you say on those sites can have widespread effects.

Before you, on social networking sites, insult your boss, mention your travel plans, or make remarks about your job, be prepared to accept the consequences. Because they might be read by people you least expect to receive them.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com [1]

rgower@tnonline.com [1]