The Internet offers many options for connecting with people and sharing information.
You’ll find discussion boards and chat sites on a wide variety of sites, from news sites to recipe sites, sites focused around grief and health issues, and sites that host political- or consumer-oriented discussions.
There are some great senior chat rooms for making friends, and many sites allow you to create new chat rooms on topics at any time.
Another way people share information is through minicomments on social journals (not to be confused with social networks). These sites, which limit any comment to no more than 140 characters (about three sentences), allow you to add your comments about your life in an ongoing stream of comments from many users. Creating rich, short messages has become almost an art form among devotees.
Instant messaging (IM), on the other hand, isn't a website but a service. Using software such as MSN Messenger, IM allows you to chat in real time with your contacts. You can access IM programs via your computer or your cellphone.
As with any site where users share information, you can use these chats, discussions, social journals and IM programs safely if you know how to sidestep some abuses, including data mining for criminal intent, social engineering ploys, ID theft scams and so forth. If you're careful to protect your privacy, you can enjoy socializing without worry.
In this chapter, we look at some ways of sharing information and we tell you how to do so safely. But first, you’ll discover how information placed online accumulates. You aren’t the only one to place it there.