Social Media? Think Again - Very Carefully

Posted by M ws On Tuesday, August 21, 2012 1 comments
I joined a particular social media back in 2007 after a former student sent me an invitation and an email explaining what it was all about. I do confess I USED TO BE an addict but I was 'healed' a couple of months ago and today, (after about twelve days of deleting stuff), I finally finished cleaning up my Facebook and what is left behind would only be highlights of important events such as obituaries, other milestones and touching comments that friends/relatives left behind.  Other than that, everything has been sterilized and my wall looks clinically clean, even my profile information has been wiped and is almost empty with no mention of gender/hometown/education/employment, albums either locked or deleted, photos untagged, all activities eg Likes/Events/Friendship all deleted/hidden etc.. I only maintain a skeletal account instead of deactivating or deleting it for the sake of connecting with my former students.

Having done loads of reading and research about social media and also as a once-upon-a-time addict, I would encourage you to seriously think again about using any such form of media.

Some friends regard me as paranoid but I am not. On the contrary, once you read as much as you can on what is actually happening or what COULD happen and HOW it could happen, my advice to all regardless of age, gender or education level is for you to just keep a cameo appearance there without revealing too much of yourself. I want to explore this from a few angles.

1. Personal relationships

Social media has seriously affected the quality, depth and maturity of personal relationships.
Instead of relating on a personal level and having good friends, some are more concerned about the number of friends they have. Regardless of whether one has met them in the real world, the tendency is for some to click with strangers and then pour out their hearts and souls etc. Whilst social media help us to connect to the larger society, it does not mean that casual and easy developments of friendship in such scenarios can be healthy.

Brian Jung wrote about this and quoted Cornell University's Steven Strogatz who said that social media sites can make it make it more difficult for us to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we foster in the real world, and the numerous casual relationships formed through social media. By focusing so much of our time and psychic energy on these less meaningful relationships, our most important connections, he fears, will weaken.

From a sociological viewpoint, I strongly believe that as a result of social media activities, some cannot distinguish between meaningful relationships and casual acquaintances - between genuine friends and hypocrites. In fact, a person may be completely different from the persona that he/she projects in the social media of his/her choice. The true 'person' is revealed only when online friends meet in the real world. Our MSM has reported many cases of how ladies have been hoodwinked by characters they meet in such sites.

Time to break the monotony of words.

Check out Cracked.Com - they have some brilliant art work that illustrate what I have been trying to say.

8 Ways Your Facebook Profile is Like a Serial Killer's Lair

This one is a must-read: 6 Things Social Networking Sites Need to Stop Doing

6 Scientific Reasons Social Networks Are Bad for Society

The World of Tomorrow (If The Internet Disappeared Today)

2. Self-endorsement

To a certain extent, social media feeds the ego of its users in that most users talk about the food the eat, what they want to wear, the most mundane things. When friends 'LIKE' their updates, there is a false sense of security and a certain kind of abandonment of ideals, ethics, values etc in varying degrees. There can be an unhealthy emphasis where one talks about oneself and bares all about what is happening in one's life.

From being an extrovert, the use of social media has turned me into an introvert. Why?

Because I realize that indeed it is a cold, cruel world out there. There can be gossip, slander etc - all kinds of horrible incidents that I witnessed in my friends' lives!

I have not been using my social media for months now as the dread and awareness of its malevolent side increased. Just two nights ago, a girlfriend Vibered me and we had a conversation that lasted for two hours and forty-five minutes where she detailed a certain unpleasant episode. She must have been wondering why I did not partake in the free-for-all or stood up for her so I told her plainly that I just go into my account to check if there is anything I should respond to and that I do not check people's walls etc. In the past, occasionally, I would check the updates of relatives and friends but now - I don't - not even my own family. I did not even write on my husband's wall on his birthday last week. And that does not mean I had forgotten or did not care.

3. Impact on Communication - Vaguebooking

Once upon a time, people kept diaries or journals for their personal writing. Along the way came social media that took over the functions of diaries and hey presto - we witnessed the birth of vaguebooking!

The Urban Dictionary defines Vaguebooking as:

An intentionally vague Facebook status update, that prompts friends to ask what's going on, or is possibly a cry for help.

Mary is: "wondering if it is all worth it"
Mark is: "thinking that was a bad idea"

"Have you talked to Mark? He's vaguebooking again. I wonder if he's back with Mary..."


Tammy is: "in line at the grocery store"

This can inhibit our personal expression and communication skills, especially if emoticons etc come into the picture and other expressions such as *facepalms* LOL, etc. What happened to good old language in proper sentences?

Not only is it annoying, Vaguebooking encourages people to rant or express their anger publicly and then friends will support them and goad them on - much like mob behaviour in the real world.

4. Cyberbulling/Stalkers/Paedophiles etc.

Social media is fertile ground for deviants such as cyberbullies, stalkers and paedophiles to seek and attack their prey, especially children who lie about their age to join social media. The Sunday Star featured a write-up on hackers and how they could terrorise social media users. Such intimidation or even blackmail is not only messy but can leave very deep scars in a person's life.

5. An Open Book for All and Sundry to See?

Why would anyone want to pose anything or everything about their lives for all to see and know? Many people are not aware of the dangers of posting their personal details e.g. birthdays or family members. Many institutions require the names of family members when resetting passwords or when making confidential enquiries. The worst thing is what we post can remain there indefinitely unless it is customed to 'ONLY ME' or deleted or taken off timeline. Many employers actually check on their staff to see what is happening on their walls or before hiring would-be staff. As such, one must always use an obscure email (not your official email) to register for facebook. Otherwise, anyone can look for you via your email address in the search facility of the social media!

6. It affects our output

For sure, many students and employees spend too much time on social media, even at the work place. Even if the company has a tech facility to block the social media, there are ways to bypass such gatekeepers. Imagine the cumulative value of time lost on social media at the work place or even the amount of homework/revision that students could have undertaken instead of spending precious time on social media.

7. It gives rise to gossip and is fertile ground for all kinds of misbehaviour

All it takes is one wrong comment to spark a war. Or the wrong word to trigger an affair etc. And then the aftermath would be totally unpleasant and unnecessary. Hence, avoid spending so much time on social media. Communicate face to face.

8. It seriously undermines the education system

According to Edudemic:

1. Many students rely on the accessibility of information on social media specifically and the web in general to provide answers. That means a reduced focus on learning and retaining information. 
2. Students who attempt to multi-task, checking social media sites while studying, show reduced academic performance ( Their ability to concentrate on the task at hand is significantly reduced by the distractions that are brought about by YouTube, stumbleupon, Facebook or Twitter. 
3. The more time students spend on social sites, the less time they spend socializing in person. Because of the lack of body signals and other nonverbal cues, like tone and inflection, social networking sites are not an adequate replacement for face-to-face communication. Students who spend a great deal of time on social networking are less able to effectively communicate in person. 
4. The popularity of social media, and the speed at which information is published, has created a lax attitude towards proper spelling and grammar. The reduces a student’s ability to effectively write without relying on a computer’s spell check feature. (source) 
5. The degree to which private information is available online and the anonymity the internet seems to provide has made students forget the need to filter the information they post. Many colleges and potential employers investigate an applicant’s social networking profiles before granting acceptance or interviews. Most students don’t constantly evaluate the content they’re publishing online, which can bring about negative consequences months or years down the road. MORE AT THIS LINK.
Of course it also affects the grammar, spelling and usage of language/expression of students. Then there is the speed at which ONE wrong move/word can have devastating effects on the account holder. Then there is the addiction to games.

9. It paves the way of identity theft and other cyber crimes.

There have been many cases of how users lost control of their accounts which were subsequently used by the hacker for fraud e.g. by pretending to be the accont holder trapped overseas without money and soliciting for aid.

10. Remember social media chats are NOT safe at all. 

Read more HERE and HERE.

 Of course there are many ways in which social media has helped society and these include:

  1. networking
  2. sharing of ideas
  3. marketing
  4. ease of communication
  5. etc.
I do not want to sound like a prude condemning social media but if you do have to use it, do check out the privacy settings and start limiting your audience.

So the next time you use your social media, do consider all these points and tighten your privacy settings. It is better to be safe than sorry.

1 comments to Social Media? Think Again - Very Carefully

  1. says:

    walla It's another episode of change pointing to paradox.

    There was once a time when people lamented that despite the flourish of communication technology around, people didn't really communicate with each other in meaningful ways.

    Now the spread of social media technology seems to have surmounted that impasse but all the same in a way that still doesn't convey enough of what may be said to be meaningful communication.

    Nevertheless, social media as we are drowning in today must surely count as one up over sms'es.

    This episode of change may soon pass as social media content reaches a critical mass in each person's life, exhausting the idea of 'six pixels of separation' that typifies the experience of inter-networking that is the engine of social media.

    One should just simplify to a 'few but ripe' (after Gauss) and stamp one's mark of excellence in them....

    If we think about it for a second, it's all because of the paradoxical need to write and post more even as one reads and ponders much less.

    And the threat of prowlers is real enough for social media to be used more sparingly and wisely. After all, the friend of my friend may not be the enemy of my enemy. Likewise, the friend of my enemy may not be the enemy of my friend. And....

    oh, good morning/bye!

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