It’s 2015. The world is fully immersed in almost every type of technology imaginable. In this era of hashtags, emojis and text speak, it seems as if everyone you know is on some form of social media. Now, personally, I believe that the Internet is one of man’s crowning achievements, but there can be obvious and not-so-obvious dangers.
Social media is a phenomenal tool to share critical thoughts, life-changing ideas and pictures of your food. When used responsibly, one can use the immense scope of social media to increase networking capabilities for personal and professional growth. I even know people who, through the power of this resource, went from unknowns, to writing magazine articles almost seemingly overnight.
While I am a fan, and advocate of using social media sites to their full potential for both leisure and business, it would be irresponsible to ignore their inherent risks. Among the most obvious are the safety risks associated with sharing personal information. For those of us seasoned enough to remember the term “stranger danger,” this risk is fairly self-explanatory. It is of utmost importance to remember that everything that is posted on the Internet has the potential to become public and permanent. Demographic information and photographs are two of the most commonly posted items that require extreme circumspection. A good rule of thumb is to think about the “worst case scenario” when deciding whether or not to post something. “What if my parents see this?” “What if my boss/co-workers stumble upon this?” and so forth. If such scenarios raise your level of anxiety or keep you awake at night, don’t press “send.”
Social media responsibility isn’t limited to personal protection. There is also the issue of integrity. Let’s face it, with most of us being almost surgically attached to our personal devices, social media sites are a daily news source for a growing number of the population. The near limitless freedom of most sites means that ordinary citizens can try their hand at journalism. Now, as some of you may know, I’m pretty big on personal responsibility (seems like something’s missing there). The old adage “Don’t believe everything you read” is applicable here, as is the term “fact-checking.” That being said, freedom of speech means that you can pretty much say what you want. Common sense and common decency dictate that sometimes you shouldn’t. Now, if you aren’t too big on either of those, then terms like “slander,” “defamation of character” and “lawsuit” may prove to be more convincing. Posting your own original content or sharing that of others should be done in a way that reflects an individual’s moral compass. Willful deceit should never be practiced for the sake of acquiring “views” or “likes.”
Depending on your endeavors, chances are you’ve encountered an Internet “troll.” This is a person who, in layman’s terms, only shows up to cause trouble, cause arguments and just be a nuisance in general. Often, these trolls are relatively harmless. However, they can cause stress and emotional strife. It’s generally agreed that the best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. Considering that they’re mostly attention-seekers, this proves to be generally effective. I bring this up mainly to say that if you are, or are contemplating becoming, a troll, then you should have a seat in the corner and stay there until you learn to make better life choices. Don’t be “that guy.”
None of this is meant to scare you off from delving into the vast world that social media can unlock. Like it or not, we are living in an age when social media is ever-present in our daily lives. A large percentage of the population will admit that checking at least one site is the first thing they do upon awakening, and one of the last things they do before bed. Social media has, for some, replaced letters and phone calls. It has made high school reunions redundant, and the phrase “let’s catch up” as outdated as a stone tablet etched with hieroglyphics. Enjoy this time. Embrace this connectivity. Use these outlets to their full potential — just do so with proper care and respect. Respect for decency, respect for privacy and respect for yourself and your fellow man.
Fredrick Wilson II attracted national media attention when, amid last summer’s racial strife in Ferguson, Mo., a video he posted on his Facebook page urging blacks to take “some personal responsi-d—bility” went viral. He lives in Las Vegas, and has over 41,000 Facbook followers.