Sri Lanka has over half a million estimated internet users. Since the shift of the web took place from being information oriented, to more user oriented and interactive, Sri Lanka also joined the party and young people in Sri Lanka have begun to interact increasingly more on the internet.
There are hundreds of facebook groups, which have thousands of facebook users. The internet is flooded with blogs and blog aggregators, and forums galore. Spaces like the Lame Duck Forum (http://www.lame-duck.com/), ElaKiri (http://www.elakiri.com/), and Kimbula (http://www.kimbula.com/) enable much social interaction and discussion.
However there are certain precautions that must be taken when interacting online. Simple concepts like respecting the rights and desires of others, to protecting oneself on the internet and not doing things that might later be regretted, must be adhered to.
Safeguarding privacy. Keep a low profile, or preferably no profile. However whilst lamenting in the beauty of the anonymity that the internet offers might seem very inviting, it is important to remember that people do make mistakes and can slip up. If complete anonymity is what you're after, use false email addresses. Don't write about anything personal or give updates on anything that happened in your life. Don't talk about work, study or relationships. Although the internet might seem a pretty big place, at times it becomes Colombo city: Too small for one's own good. A place where everybody knows everybody.
Don't talk behind other people's backs. Legally, there are four criteria that must be fulfilled for a statement to be recognized as defamation. The statement must be defamatory, the person should be clearly identifiable, it has to be communicated to a third party, and it must be done with malicious intent. Therefore if you blog referring to someone as "a stupid little pig," that person can sue you for defamation.
Don't bully. Cyber bullying is a growing issue. If in real life you're not a bully, then why be one on the internet? Cyber bullying can be in the form of cyber stalking, abusive emails or chats, or even posting harmful content about others in public forums, blogs and web sites. If you're a victim of bullying, let the administrators of web sites know immediately. Most would be more than happy to take the harmful content off.
Google yourself. This should be done once every few weeks to see what people are saying about you. Since this is something employers are increasingly doing about their potential and sometimes even existing employees, you too should do this and see what others can find out about you through a mere Google search.
And facebook? Un-tag yourself from that embarrassing picture, and guard your profile against people you haven't accepted. And while it might seem funny to have "interesting" content, remember, just like in real life, first impressions make a world of a difference.
So take all these into consideration next time you're interacting on the internet. Be safe, enjoy yourself, and come out with dignity.