Congratulations! We made it through the week. Let's end with a silly answer to a silly question: Does Facebook contribute to the spread of syphilis?
Yes, that is a serious discussion happening all over the web right now, internationally (Google: syphilis facebook, to see the various perspectives). It started when a British "health expert" announced that he'd found a link between Facebook usage and the rise in syphilis. Then followed a retort from Facebook, and doubt from bloggers over the logic behind the connection. Then, those bloggers were chastised for apparently not understanding correlation vs. causation. Which sparked more satire and hillarity about "safe" social networking. Something tells me this is going to get worse before it gets better.
Online security is a legitimate concern for any social networker. Thankfully, however, it still not possible to transmit human diseases electronically. Whether or not social networking contributes to the spread of social diseases can be an interesting discussion, as long as we keep things in perspective. Let's remember that more and more people are using the web to communicate and meet each other, now. Before they met online, they were meeting using personal ads, dating services, and singles clubs. People have met (and still do) in bars, and clubs and at Wal-Mart for years, now. Is there any reason to believe that the method of meeting can affect the probability of contracting a disease? Probably not.
The real story here, I believe, is that we are likely to see more and more stories of this type (such as the Craigs List prostitution stings), as certain authority figures seek to use the "public health issue" tactic for gaining more and more control of the web. We need to remember not to take every "news" story we hear at face value - but to evaluate the information for truth and objectivity.
And no, you cannot get syphilis from Facebook. You can't get pregnant there either.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is a trainer and tech writer in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking. Her weakness is the mocha frappuccino.