As we continue to watch the tragedy unfold surrounding the explosions in Boston on Monday, social media sites were once again in the spotlight as people used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to communicate with friends and family in the area.
In the aftermath of the bombings cell towers were overloaded and calls simply weren't going through. But people were able to get online and send text messages.
Most of the photos we're seeing online were taken with cell phones minutes after the first bombs went off and showed the grisly scene. Most media outlets, including The Californian, used the Storify curation app to gather public social media posts into one place for readers.
Google quickly opened up its Person Finder site (http://google.org/personfinder/2013-boston-explosions) for people to find loved ones and post information about people, and the hashtags #PrayForBoston and #BostonMarathon were trending on Twitter all Monday afternoon.
Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a group of new moms here in Bakersfield about social media use today.
Being at the WarmLine (Facebook.com/WarmLineBakersfield) meeting Friday morning, I felt a sense of familiarity.
It was almost nine years ago that I bundled up my 10-day-old son and walked into my first meeting of the new moms support group run by Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia.
Those weekly meetings probably saved my life, or at least my sanity.
That group of women were as sleep deprived, scared and in awe of their children as I was.
We talked about everything ... things only new moms would understand. It was a relief to walk in that room each week. And it was there I met a half-dozen women who would become my closest friends.
While half of our little group has moved away, we continue to stay connected daily through Facebook. Along with status updates and pictures of all our kids, we have a private group where we can rant, rave and share the updates we used to share in person.
Is it the same as sitting in the same room? No. But right now it's all we have, and I'll take it.
It's a question I get asked a lot and it came up while I was talking with the WarmLine moms last week. How can I get my personal information off the Internet?
If you haven't recently, Google your name to see what comes up. In most cases a listing from WhitePages.com will come up and will display your home address. To remove it from this site all you need to do is to "claim" the entry as you, create a free account on the site, and adjust your privacy settings to not show your address.
That's the easy part. Figuring our who is selling your information may not be so easy.
In most cases, your personal data is coming from sites where you likely signed up to receive a free sample of a product, a coupon, or subscribed to a magazine. Personally, I suspect it can also come from major retailers where you've shopped online.
This is why it's imperative that you carefully read the privacy settings on every site you sign up for, and make sure to uncheck any default settings that allow your information to be shared.
Generally speaking, to get information removed from a site, look for the name of a writer, or website manager. If no contact information is listed, do a WhoIs search by typing "whois www.site-name.com". Be sure to include the quotes. That will tell you who registered the site, which is a good place to start on smaller websites. Look for contact numbers and email addresses and follow up your initial communication.
If you've been successful in changing a site, but Google is still showing the older version of the site, you can use Google's URL Removal Tool (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals) to speed up the process. You'll have to submit requests to other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing separately.
But here's the thing: There is a lot of information that is legally public information, the biggest example being property and criminal records. Information like that has always been available by visiting local government and law enforcement offices. In 2013, the Internet just makes it all easier to see.
For more information on public records in California, visit the Office of the Attorney General website at http://oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/pra.
Sports, sports and more sports topped Social TV last week.
The NCAA Championship game (3.6 million social posts) and the final round of the Masters golf tournament (1.2 million) claimed two of the top three spots. Coming at No. 2 though was the MTV Movie Awards (2.2 million).
Full statistics at Facebook.com/JamieButow2.