Social mapping is either affecting you right now or will be sometime in the near future. While you may not understand what it is or how it affects you, you’ll learn more about it as it becomes better known. Social mapping refers to the concept of building a digital fingerprint and profile of you in the digital world. Your digital profile may include the way that you interact with other people on websites and how you use your mobile device on the go, among other things. People need to be smart about social media in order to protect themselves and their information from being used for malicious purposes.
Most people are aware of how much time they spend online connected to the internet. Most of us spend a great deal of time checking email, interacting with friends, researching interesting things and doing all kinds of other things on our computers. What many people don’t realize, however, is how they are connected to the digital world through other means and how much time they spend connected. Many people are connected all the time; a lot can be learned about people based on what they do online and when they do it. It’s important to be aware of how much time you are spending online and how it can be used to harm or help you.
Think about the amount of time you spend online at home or work and the percentage that time you spend connected to a computer with internet access. Now think about how many text messages you sent yesterday or how many Twitter updates or status updates you posted on Facebook. Combined, all of this information can give people a glimpse into your life and what you do on a daily basis. Marketers and other people are taking advantage of all the information they can gather on you to show you products and services that you are likely to use or purchase. While this can be a very benign way to use information collected about you, it ignores that larger issue: when you’re online, information about you and your life is being collected about you.
Have you ever noticed how ads on a certain page seem to be tailored to you and your circumstances? This is possible because companies are using the information you put out into the world to give information back to you. If you list photography as a hobby in an online profile, you’re likely to see ads for cameras and photo related gear when you visit those sites. While this generally isn’t a problem for most people, it’s certainly something to be aware of.
Being smart about social mapping is part understanding how often it is used and what it is used for and part understanding which information is OK to share and which isn’t. For example, it may seem harmless to post a note about going out to dinner with your friends. However, many people talk about how long they will be gone and what they will be doing while they are out. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, putting a window of time out there can tell people when to come rob your place, for example. Not everyone is necessarily who they say they are in our modern world, so it’s important to be smart about the kind of information that you share.