The Dark Side of Social Media

No, I’m not making a Star Wars reference. But let’s just pretend I am because those movies are fantastic.

As someone very involved in social media, with an account on virtually every platform out there, I see the benefits of having a social media presence every day. I love being able to keep in touch with those I love despite our distance. I love sharing my thoughts and opinions with others and really take control of my identity. I love exposing myself to new knowledge from others. Also, from a marketing standpoint, social media is a very effective way to spread a message in a way that is more personal than traditional advertising.

But with these benefits also come plenty of cons. While people do recognize these negative aspects, I feel like they are still a dark area of understanding. Social media has evolved dramatically in recent years, but we still do not take enough of the necessary steps to try and prevent these.

For example, the shooting of Christina Grimmie. Personally, I never watched her sing on The Voice, but I grew up with her YouTube videos, her simply sitting behind an electric keyboard, a Sonic the Hedgehog poster in the background, singing covers of popular songs. She is only a few years older than me, so she understood how to use social  media and used it frequently. With this active presence, however, the opportunity for

I think of people like John Hinckley, wondering how he probably would have done the same exact thing on social media to obsess over Jodie Foster. Social media closes the distance we feel between people, and those who desire an unhealthy relationship with others, celebrities or average people, thrive with this intimate access.

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Heck, catfishing and deception as become such a widespread problem, they made a whole MTV show about it. Preventing getting stuck into a catfishing scheme requires us to be both aware and proactive.

It doesn’t matter how safe you try to be on social media; those people who will take advantage of its resources for obsessive, abusive reasons will always occur. We have to learn how to recognize this potential and stop any signs in their tracks. Although we can share much of our lives through Facebook statuses and tweets, we need to be smart and thoughtful with everything.

We have just started to touch on issues of cyberbullying and catfishing. Deception occurs regularly when it hides behind a computer screen or smart phone. Someone who jumps into social media not aware of these problems is left vulnerable, open for stalkers, bullies, and predators to take control. What may seem like pleasant persona can quickly become a dangerous one, especially if a user chooses to be very public.

As humans, we need privacy. With social media, we have to redefine what that means in this modern age. To me, that means not making posts too frequently and not sharing my exact location. I am very hesitant to interact with anybody who I do not personally know, and if I see any suspicious behavior, I block the person and leave the situation immediately. Since nothing on social media is ever deleted, we have to ask ourselves how a certain post may seem to other perspectives, stepping into someone else’s shoes. Even if those shoes are ones of a potential predator.

Ultimately, social media is a powerful tool, and with this power comes great responsibility. The pros and cons lists both continue to grow. Learning about internet safety may not seem like a fun activity, but as technology advances, people are continuing to learn new ways to trick and hurt others, and as we saw with Christina Grimmie, taking that from the cyber world into real life. Examine your online profiles, pay close attention to others, and be wise about your interactions. Social media safety is becoming just as important as “street smarts,” having that conscience and common sense to recognize a dangerous situation. They won’t always be obvious, but knowing that they are most frequent than we may realize is the first step to a mindful social media presence.

And with that, a day spent watching a marathon of Star Wars is in order.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

 

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