I’ve been trying to explain Twitter and Facebook to my parents for some time now, and despite my best efforts, they still find the lack of privacy a little unsettling. “You mean everyone will know when you go to the bathroom?”

Not exactly Mom, you don’t tell people everything you’re doing. But her point is a good one. Social Media (SM) allows individuals to effortlessly communicate and share ideas across broad networks, but some recent news has shown what happens when social media goes wrong.

Twitter’s rapidly growing population consists of celebrities, presidents, companies, neighbors and even pets. Charlie Villanueva, Forward for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA, has become an infamous Tweeter after two incidents last month. First, Villanueva or CV31 as he’s known on Twitter, posted a Tweet at halftime of a game against the Boston Celtics. Bucks’ head coach Scott Skiles quickly reprimanded these actions. (The Tweet can be read here.) For an encore, CV31 cited an inside source when he announced that Jim Calhoun, the coach of his Alma mater would coach in the next game of the NCAA Tournament for the University of Connecticut after health complications kept him out of the previous game.

“Juror Jonathon” ran into trouble in March for Tweeting details of a $12.6 million case from his cell phone. These Twitter updates, while not explicitly forbidden by courts, are believed to be grounds for a mistrial.

These two incidents are yet another example of technology moving faster than regulatory rules (or just a lack of common sense). Social media is a great public relations tool, providing ways for businesses and individuals to control their messages. But as more companies and businesses enter the social media circus, they must be wary of information leaking to the public through blogs, podcasts, Facebook pages, MySpace, Twitter, etc. The traditional walls of privacy my parents are familiar with are being torn down in favor of faster communication. Until rules are in place to control the expansive social media capabilities, remember to balance networking with personal responsibility and common sense.

Case Ernsting