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Guest Post: Patty Blount on Social Media

Monday, July 8, 2013
Today, Patty Blount is here to talk about Social Media in relation to her upcoming novel TMI, as a part of the TMI blog tour.




TMI



Genre: Contemporary
Paperback: 336 Pages
Publication: August 6, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire




Synopsis

Best friends don’t lie.
Best friends don’t ditch you for a guy.
Best friends don’t post your deepest, darkest secrets online.

Bailey’s falling head-over-high-heels for Ryder West, a mysterious gamer she met online. A guy she’s never met in person. Her best friend, Meg, doesn’t trust smooth-talking Ryder. He’s just a picture-less profile.

When Bailey starts blowing Meg off to spend more virtual quality time with her new crush, Meg decides it’s time to prove Ryder’s a phony.

But one stupid little secret posted online turns into a friendship-destroying feud to answer the question:

Who is Ryder West?


Guest Post
Patty Blount on Social Media

The most important thing I’ve learned about social media is that networks like Twitter and Facebook and so on are powerful tools that can be abused and misused in ways we’re still learning about.

The premises for SEND and TMI came from the news. For SEND, I’d read about kids who were sexting and getting into trouble for harassing other kids online. For TMI, I’d read a story about a teen who discovered her boyfriend was a hoax created by a jealous rival’s mom. And then, I had a strange experience with an acquaintance I met in real life through a mutual friend. He contacted me on Facebook chat, asked me about my friends, my work, and even my kids. For about ten minutes, I had no reason to believe I wasn’t chatting with my new acquaintance. Then he told me he just got a huge sum of money by clicking some link and wanted me to click it too. I realized this was a scam and I tried to end the chat. I called our mutual friend and she told me the man I was just chatting with online was in her house at that moment. The scammer kept asking me why I didn’t click his link so I told him he was a liar. I reported the incident and that was the end of that.

But it planted a seed. How do we know the people we talk to online are really who they say they are? Where’s our proof? Pictures can be copied, identities and profiles easily set up, and anybody with the password can pretend to be someone else. Here’s an example… I am a huge fan of actor Gilles Marini and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Last year, the Gilles Marini account tweeted me a happy birthday greeting. Did Gilles Marini really do that or was it his assistant? It really doesn’t matter. But what if the account in question is my boss? My spouse? My child? How can we be sure we’re chatting with people we really know?

The answer is we can’t and that means we have to stay hyper-vigilant and not divulge highly personal information.

Identity issues aren’t the only danger with social networking. Perhaps even more dangerous is that social networks not only give everyone a voice, they have a tendency to amplify voices that don’t deserve the airtime. There is a group that calls itself a ‘church’ that spews hatred and protests events like funerals. I won’t call them by name because I don’t want to promote them, yet that’s what happens every time somebody retweets their messages, even if only to make fun of them. As a result, they have over six thousand followers.

Lastly, the Boston Marathon bombing illuminated a stunning issue – mainstream news organizations can no longer be trusted. They report speculation and rumor as facts and people spread that misinformation via social networks as if they’re vetted reports. In the week after the bombings, there were reports of an attack in Washington, D.C. that I later learned were not true. As I’m writing this, a Texas senator is fillibustering a state law. This is important news I want to know about but only Twitter users are covering it. So far, there’s been nothing on CNN about these developments.

What’s the lesson here? Simply this – if you’re online, you are now a news reporter and should take that responsibility seriously. I no longer share headlines like the D.C. attack until I have personally checked that the report is true. During the manhunt for the bombers, I did not tweet information I learned from police scanners and I didn’t spread the speculation other news organizations were reporting as facts until the police confirmed the information was true.

I hope all my readers – teens and adults alike – will understand that social networks are powerful tools that can be and frequently are mis-used.

What are some of the precautions you take when using social networks? Comment here!



About the Author
Patty's Website | Facebook | Twitter

Technical writer by day, fiction writer by night, Patty mines her day job for ideas to use in her novels. Her debut YA Send was born after a manager suggested she research social networks. Patty adores chocolate, her boys, and books, though not necessarily in that order.



This post is a part of the TMI blog tour
Come back August 5th for my review



1 comment on "Guest Post: Patty Blount on Social Media"
  1. Great post. It's a frightening world online. People seem to feel like they can say or do anything behind a computer screen.

    I see a lot of "news" fly through my twitter feed but I always investigate it first before forming an opinion. People will be all upset about something and it turns out not to be quite true.

    I've been looking forward to reading TMI. Can't wait!

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