People of all walks of life have used sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace to reconnect and stay in touch. As the popularity of these sites has grown, so have the number of advertisers and other commercial interests seeking to exploit them. Spammers and hackers have stolen profile information and used people’s profiles to try to steal personal data.
One solution for those who have a common interest or thread, like an activity, workplace, school or organization is to start their own social networking group. Sites like Facebook may make it easier, but most of the features that the majority of users take advantage of can be made elsewhere. Status info, updates, messages, comments- all can be sent through other mediums.
The one thing that creating your own social network can do is keep your private information safer than it would be on a site like Facebook or MySpace. Because of the huge number of people who place information such as phone numbers, birth dates, hometowns, school information and the names of spouses and children, advertisers have a lot of data they can capture about you and use. Thieves can use this information to figure out passwords and other sensitive information. If you are off that network, they will not know where to look.
Facebook and MySpace are free at the present time, but there are plans for it to become a paid service. Find your friends on these sites from a minimal profile and have them begin to contact the network off-site. Use the sites as locators until they are no longer free.
There are services that can function as message centers. Two of these services are the GenieMessenger which lets you communicate with friends and business associates worldwide, free of charge, while keeping your privacy and the GenieVOX by AllCom. Using a private toll-free number tied to a home or cell phone, GenieVOX gives you access to a center that lets you send and receive messages from anywhere in the world. You can retrieve messages by phone, text or email and can send text messages or voice messages of up to 3 minutes long to an unlimited number of people. You also get an avatar that you can use as an email signature that connects anyone directly to your messages center. There are no contracts and it only costs $4.95 per month.
Just in case you don’t want your private phone number or email address in the hands of an acquaintance you’d rather not have such personal information, services such as these that use an assigned number allow you to keep your personal number private. With your own social network, you can have all the benefits of staying in touch with old friends and associates without any of the liabilities.