Personalizing Your Profile
MySpace requires only basic information to create and maintain a user account. But as you cruise around the site, you'll notice that most users—especially teens—add a great deal of detail and personality. The more information they share, of course, the more information they're giving out to the general public, which is why in Chapter 5, we advise parents to remind teens to be very careful about the type of information they put out there.
To add to your profile, click the Edit Profile link in the blue box in the top-left corner of your home page (Figure 3.7).
Figure 3.7 Click the Edit Profile link.
The Profile Edit — Interests & Personality page appears (Figure 3.8). This is where you begin adding information about yourself. Other categories for adding information, such as Name, Basic Info, and Background & Lifestyle can be accessed using the tabs at the top of the page.
Figure 3.8 The Profile Edit page, where you can write anything about yourself in the boxes beside the headings.
Note that you have full ownership of your profile and are free to answer questions and fill in boxes (or not), as you wish. If you don't feel comfortable answering certain questions, don't bother. When MySpace loads your profile, it will show only populated fields. Questions and categories left blank will be invisible. A few fields, however, will be filled in automatically.
In most cases, you have the option to delete or change the automatically populated fields. You can change your display name, for example (by default, it's your first name), or remove or change the name of your town. You can even change your gender (well, what you say is your gender) and your date of birth. See the section "Adding a display name" for details on how to do this.
Adding Interests and Personality Details
The Profile Edit - Interests & Personality page (Figure 3.8) has text boxes that allow creative expression, including, from some teens, information that probably shouldn't be there. You can leave any of these boxes blank, or you can type anything you want the public to see. As we explain in Chapter 7, some people even add HTML to some of these boxes to enhance (or mess up) their pages.
Note: Don't worry too much about HTML; you don't have to use it, and even if you do decide to use it, you don't have to know much about it, as we'll explain in Chapter 7.
Your browser will be directed to this page after you've set up your account. If you want to alter this page later, you can access it by clicking the Edit Profile link in the Hello box on your home page.
You can add anything from short 'n' sweet comments to lengthy descriptions and details:
- Headline. The headline is a short, simple statement or personal handle.
- About Me. This section is for your personal bio or statement—a verbal snapshot of who you are. Content here varies greatly, from funny, interesting, and succinct to obnoxiously verbose to pure, unintelligible slang.
- I'd Like to Meet. You can list specific people you'd like to meet (celebrities, historic figures, athletes), groups (such as a band or team), or general types of people.
Interests. Here, you present information about what makes you tick, such as hobbies, interests, activities, and joys (Figure 3.9).
Figure 3.9 The interests page is how you represent yourself online.
- Music. Music has its own category because it's such a big personality piece. You can learn a lot about people based on their musical tastes, and MySpace users have the option to express and define themselves by providing detail about their musical likes and dislikes.
- Movies, Television, and Books. MySpace users can elaborate further on their entertainment likes and dislikes in these sections.
- Heroes. Typically, users put the name of a real or fictional person here, but many people skip this question.
Adding a Display Name
MySpace recommends you create a "display name" for your profile (elsewhere known as a screenname). That's your MySpace moniker and can be anything you want—your first name, nickname, or any other label:
At the top of the Profile Edit—Interests & Personality page, click the Name link.
The Profile Edit - Name page appears. On this page, you're likely to see the name you entered when you signed up.
- Leave the display name as it is, or type a different one (Figure 3.10).
Figure 3.10 Your display or screen name: how everybody identifies you on MySpace.
- Click Save Changes.
Your display name won't show up in your profile but will be stored in the MySpace database, allowing other users who know your name to search for you. For complete anonymity, you can opt to fill in only the display name and delete your last name if it's there by default. This makes it more difficult for friends to find you on MySpace, which is something many teenagers want to avoid.
Adding Background and Lifestyle Details
To access this page, click the Background & Lifestyle link at the top of any of the Profile Edit pages.
The majority of questions on this page are purely optional; again, parents can remind their kids that they don't need to answer all the questions. Users can reveal more information about themselves by checking applicable selections for:
- Marital status (not optional)
- Sexual orientation (see below)
Including School Information
Almost all kids list the name of their school. We prefer that kids not give out that information, because it does help predators locate them. Actually, though, this cat is already out of the bag. The whole point of social networking is to help people find one another—ideally, people they know from the real world.
Kids' lives revolve around school, and given the culture of MySpace, there's almost no way to persuade most teens not to reveal their school name, because it helps them find classmates. This, by itself, is one of the positive and safe aspects of the service. Assuming that teens do give out their school name, the key is to avoid giving out too much other information, as we discuss throughout this book.
But this advice isn't just for kids. In addition to current school, users can list former schools on the Profile Edit — Schools page, along with lots of optional information that can help fellow alums find one another.
To access the Schools page, click the Schools link at the top of any Profile Edit page.
Adding Employer Information
Though this section applies mainly to adults, it can affect teens with part-time or summer jobs as well. Users can include former and current employers in their profile. This can provide opportunities to network and socialize with co-workers, but it also makes it easier for an employer to find your profile. There have been cases in which employees have been fired (and students disciplined) as a result of postings that the employer or school considered to be inappropriate, illegal, or in violation of policy. Parents can help kids remember that.
To access this page, click the Companies link at the top of any Profile Edit page.
Listing Areas of Interest for Networking
MySpace is a social network that many people use to reach out to others with similar interests. These interests can be business-related, political, artistic, or purely social. There are other places in the service (including groups) where you can find like-minded people, but by specifying your networking interests, you can make it easier for people with similar interests to find you.
You can also select networking categories in specific fields and industries to add to your profile.
If you display your networking interests in your profile, other writers, dancers, or marketing people on MySpace can find you when they search for people with a specific affiliation.
To access the page, click the Networking link at the top of any Profile Edit page.
After you've added all the details about yourself to your profile, click the View My Profile link in the top-right corner of the page to preview your profile (Figure 3.11).
Figure 3.11 The results at last! Now you can review your profile.
Setting Privacy Options
MySpace gives you some control of how other people can find you, contact you, and view or comment on your profile. In most cases, MySpace sets the default privacy settings to the least private options (except for people who are 14 or 15 years old, whose accounts can be viewed by friends only or anyone younger than 18 on MySpace).
As this book was going to press, MySpace announced that all MySpace users have the option of making their profiles private. Prior to this announcement, private profiles were available only to 14 and 15 year olds. As of this writing, the default settings for users who register as being 16 or older are likely to remain public, so it's still a good idea to customize the privacy settings to a level that's comfortable for you or your teen.
To view or make changes to your privacy settings, follow these steps:
- On your MySpace home page, click the Account Settings link (Figure 3.12).
Figure 3.12 Click Account Settings to display your privacy options.
- Scroll down to Privacy Settings, and select Change Settings.
- To change certain settings, simply check the applicable check boxes and then click Change Settings (Figure 3.13).
Figure 3.13 Select the privacy options you want.
- Require Email or Last Name to Add Me As a Friend. This setting gives you a little more privacy by preventing people from adding you as a friend unless they know your email address or last name. To add you, they have to know at least a little bit about you.
- Approve Comments Before Posting. By default, any of your MySpace friends can post comments to your profile page. Such comments can be embarrassing or could violate your privacy. Although you can delete them later, the comments will stay there until you do. It's a smart idea to check this check box, because it gives you the power to approve comments before they're posted. The only downside is that friends who post comments have to wait a while before the world can see them. But others can't post malicious or just stupid comments to your page.
- Hide Online Now. By default, other MySpace users can tell whether you're online. That can be handy if they want to send you an instant message, but you may not want to tell the world that you or your kids are sitting at a computer using MySpace at this very moment (it's a pretty good clue that you're home, which you may not want others to know). Selecting this check box hides that display.
- Show My Birthday to My Friends. This option (checked by default) tells your friends that it's time to send you a gift or at least a "Happy birthday" greeting. It's relatively safe, but birthdays are one of many pieces of information that identity thieves use.
- No Pic Forwarding. If you turn this option off, you're preventing other users from emailing your photo to any MySpace user they choose. Not allowing pic forwarding gives you only a little more control of your picture—people with a little more tech know-how can still copy your photo and paste it wherever they want. But even a little bit of control helps.
- Friend Only Blog Comments. By default, anyone can post to your blog. This option limits blog postings to friends only. As we discuss in "Blogging" in Chapter 4, a blog is separate from your basic profile; many MySpace users don't use blogs.
- Block Friend Request from Bands. As we said earlier, music is the soul of MySpace, and it's set up for bands and fans to connect, which is why a lot of people like to include bands as their "friends." The downside, however, is that you could get unwanted email from bands you don't want to hear from, so checking this option means that bands can't send you requests to be among your friends. Even if you block these requests, you can still initiate contact with bands and add them as your friends.
- Friend Only Group Invites. MySpace groups enable people to invite others to join them to discuss a variety of topics. But you may get more invitations than you bargained for, so when you choose this option, you get invitations only from your friends.
- Disable Band Songs from Automatically Starting. This setting is more for your sanity and peace of mind than for your privacy. As you surf around MySpace, you'll hear a lot of music, whether you want to or not. Sometimes, it can be distracting. So by checking this option, you won't hear the music.
When kids are registered with MySpace as being 16 years old or older, the Who Can View My Full Profile section at the bottom of the privacy settings window provides two options:
- My Friends Only. Only the people on a person's friends list can view the profile.
- Public. The profile can be viewed by anyone. This is the default option, so it has to be changed if you or your teen want more control.
When kids are registered with MySpace as being 14 or 15 years old, the Who Can View My Full Profile section at the bottom of the privacy settings window provides a different set of options (Figure 3.14):
Figure 3.14 These extra privacy options are only for people who register as being 14 or 15 years old.
- My Friends Only. Only the people on a person's friends list can view the profile.
- Anyone Under 18 on MySpace. Only MySpace users who say they are 18 years old or younger can view the profile. This is the default option.
Note: What you see onscreen may look different from Figure 3.14, since MySpace was just announcing these changes as this book went to press. Keep in mind that the settings could change further as MySpace rolls out additional privacy settings.