The impacts of social media on modern day society vary from both positive and negative aspects. Whether or not humanity has truly “benefited” from the evolution of social media sources is yet to be recognized. Although it is true that social media “connects” us in ways that were never possible, prior the 70’s, one must question the implications associated with this connectivity.
The first e-mail was sent in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson. Ironically enough, this ground breaking first message, which would inherently give birth to the social media world as we know it, was simply a series of random characters addressed to himself. Around the same time, give or take a few years, the Vietnam war took a turn for the better and the majority of the troops began to ship from foreign grounds back home. What would it have been like if technology had evolved earlier and the thousands of troops on foreign soil had access to social media sources? Having several friends in the Canadian military and Navy, I am used to seeing the occasional “action shot” of them posted on Facebook news feed which was taken while they were on duty. More recently, I’ve also come across disturbing footage on Youtube of U.S. soldiers fighting Taliban in the Middle-East; this is often recorded on a helmet cam the soldier has personally invested in to capture footage of them in the field. We’ve all heard of the horrors of war from relatives or possibly read of it in a book or on the internet. Yet, what would it be like if social media had evolved much earlier than the 70’s and we were able to witness war through live video feed or countless images transferred through e-mail?
It’s said that in four in a half minutes over 100 hours of video are uploaded onto Youtube and these numbers are growing. A large portion of these videos relate to current events and are simply spreading like wildfire from one individual to the next. Youtube, Facebook, twitter and other major modern social media sources have fail-safes to ensure that inappropriate content does not surface within their domains. However, these fire-walls are not capable of blocking all content that may be deemed offensive and this opens the doors of misuse to the public. With the ongoing increases in social media users comes increased numbers in cyberbullying. Harassment through social media sources is an issue that spans a wide age range from children first learning to use the technology to adults who could face prison time for their content violations. It’s said that approximately 25% of kids between the ages of 12-15 have admitted to witnessing cyberbullying in one form or another. This has to make the public question whether or not social media is giving youth a tool to harass others and as to what the benefits of social media really are for that age group? Don’t get me wrong, having Facebook “friends” is all well and good but when increased numbers in youth suicide are linked to cyberbullying there is obviously something wrong with the social media system. One of these problems, perhaps the most prominent, is our emotional investment in social media.
“Why won’t my girlfriend change her facebook relationship status?” – asked countless individuals who have come across that circumstance. The same applies to the female counter-question, of course. Why is it that people feel the need, or feel the need not to, share their relationship status on social media sites? I feel the answer to this question is both complex and simple. The complexity comes into play because we, as human beings, are complexly complicated creatures that encompass a wide range of emotions and an undefinable universal thought process. On the simpler side of things, we like to feel safe and status is security. However, if you were confident in your partner and had faith, or trusted, your relationship you wouldn’t need social media to justify anything. Yet another reason we value social media status lies within our inherent need for attention. We use social media sites because we enjoy the feeling of being connected to others and this allows us to share our thoughts or feelings in the digital world through posts, blogs, tweets, etc… There is, nevertheless, a significant downfall to this connectivity as it acts as a double edged blade with our sharing at one end and our viewing at the opposite. When you create a profile on a social media site you basically sign away a part of your privacy. Whether we like to admit it or not, social media platforms simply do not, and cannot, provide adequate privacy for users. Having said this, and including privacy concerns, there are seven main issues that are viewed to affect social media longevity that any user must take into consideration when creating their digital profile.
In a sense, the public has a certain control over the content they choose to release through many social media sources. For instance, we can keep anything from our personal interests to our gender private on Facebook. Yet, many of us have had a social media account hacked in the past and questioned the means behind the process. As of recent, many sites have become introduced on the internet that offer a guide to hack Facebook accounts. In fact, one of these sites I’ve come across boasts the possibility of hacking a Facebook account within minutes through the use of text or SMS messaging. Ironically, there are also numerous Youtube videos that act as manuals for hacking social media accounts. And, furthermore, once your profile is hacked anyone in your list of connections may be subject to having their profile hacked if they accept content transferred from your profile. This is a topic of much controversy in relation to the security of social media sites.
So what can be done to maintain safe connections within your social media needs and desires? Although I’m sure it will never happen, I’d recommend users of sites like Facebook to only share information that they feel is necessary or relevant to the public. Social media can be very influential on an individual emotions and this makes it, to a certain extent, dangerous if misused. It’s obvious there are still numerous security issues within the social media system and this is something that will continue as long as we keep evolving our technology in that field. It’s possible these sites also lead to unhealthy amounts of exposure to the digital world which, in turn, limits natural social interactions that occur away from your computer, phone, or other digital device. So, really, it is up to the individual to be responsible for his/her interaction with social media and to establish a healthy relationship with the technology they possess.