I see my friend enjoying the monsoon showers in Vishakhapatnam. From another part of the world, someone else chats with me about the skyrocketing prices. I am invited to share the action at a relative's birthday celebration in Singapore. Closer home, a buddy watches a bunch of movies on UTV over the weekend, and wants me in on it too.

Social networking. It is a great new age way to keep in touch with near and dear ones. Sharing information has never been so easy.

But remember, it is a virtual world. While you make new friends through a personal connection of a known friend, ensure it is a mutual ‘chain of trust'. People you are friends with on social networking sites have access to a lot of your personal information.

You need to employ a common sense approach and follow some tips to have a happy, safe and fulfilling social networking experience.

In the real world, you wouldn't share your personal information with someone sitting next to you in the theatre or on the train. Exercise caution in the virtual world too.

l Try and remain anonymous. Choose an alias screen name.

l Do not share your location details (Some of the Google tools can pinpoint the details of where you are logging on from).

l It is easy to mask real identities online (an 80-year-old can pretend to be a 20-year-old). Know who your real ‘friend' is.

l Be wary of the contents you post. A photograph of your car with the number plate makes it easy for ‘predators' to get your address.

l Your personal information could be easily abused. For instance, to reset the password of your credit card, all they need to do is get your birth date and your maiden name.

l Never let on that you'll be away from home. It is like putting a ‘no one's home' sign on your door. Wait for your vacation to get over and then share the fun.

l Your ‘online social behaviour' can also affect your professional life. Software companies such as Infosys is all set to introduce a ‘social media policy' that enables it to take legal action against employees who leak confidential company information on social networking sites. And, if a new employer finds you bad mouthing your previous company, they may not recruit you.