The Dark Side Of Social Network Sites
There are many advantages offered by the social web especially in connecting with others and maintaining contact over the internet. Unfortunately, few people tend to consider the consequences that might arise from posting images, texts, and other forms of media on social networking sites. What they fail to understand is that once something is posted online it becomes difficult, and most likely impossible, to delete or retrieve. The failure to exercise caution and limitation on information shared online can lead to dire repercussions.
It is important to monitor private or important information posted on social networking sites as this action may have immediate or long term consequences which, in some extreme cases, lead to financial losses or even bodily injury and death. Picture a scenario where you arrive home from a vacation at the riverside only to find your home burglarized. Next, you receive an official notice from your college informing you that you have been expelled due to questionable conduct. This series of misfortunes is sealed by a call from your parents informing you that you are no longer welcomed home for Christmas. Such a sad and unfortunate scenario is a possibility that can arise from sharing information on social networking sites. An internet hacker could have accessed your Facebook account and read that you would be vacationing at the river for a week. Due to unexpected circumstances, the riverside vacation gets too wild and you find yourself in engaging in acts you had previously sworn never to be involved in. You later find out that a supposed good friend had taken pictures of the entire unfortunate incident and posted them on your Facebook page. The information goes viral and spreads all over the internet. It is not only your school that knows about it now but so do your entire family and the rest of the world for that matter. Such a sad incident validates the fact that information shared online should indeed be limited. You might encounter a different set of embarrassing or dangerous incidents but the bottom line is that the varying degrees of consequences associated with sharing information on a social networking site makes it imperative to exercise caution and extreme limitation.
When young adults allow the world to access to their personal life through social networking sites they need to be aware of the immediate consequences of their actions. By doing this, they allow other people, including strangers, to judge and publish biased and inaccurate opinions about them. Actions and opinions published in public can have a negative effect on one’s ability to live a productive life. While commenting on the consequences of posting private information on social networking sites, Mark Hillinger notes, “Underage students have been expelled from various universities for posting pictures of themselves drinking, drunk, high, stoned, streaking, etc” (2).
Most would agree that going out and partying is a normal part of college life. However, sharing the actions and other issues that occur in these parties with your mentors and advisors is not only unnecessary but totally uncalled for. Posting private information on these sites does not only affect academic performance but might also act as an impediment in pursuing a chosen career. In his article Hillinger further states, “Applicants have been denied employment because employers have scoped illicit content on potential workers profiles” (2). Once pictures of illegal actions or explicit and compromising activities have been posted on social networking sites, they become an item in the World Wide Web, not to mention that once uploaded these incriminating images can not be easily deleted.
The immediate consequences of sharing unlimited information on social networking sites can be serious but they pale in comparison with the extreme consequences that might arise from this seemingly fun and innocent act. A simple act of putting your personal information on social networking sites can lead to death. According to an ABC reporter, a high school student communicated to her friends on a social network site that she was having a graduation party. Unfortunately, some members of the same social network saw the post and decided to show up uninvited. This led to a confrontation which, ultimately, left one person dead, two critically wounded, and two others with injuries (McBride 1). This is just one of the many examples of the dangers of sharing too much information on social networks. You might think such things can never happen in your neighborhood but the incident actually occurred in Rancho Cucamonga.
There have even been extreme cases where online deception can even lead to suicide. According to Bill Hewitt, “Megan Meier, 13, killed herself after a fake online admirer, allegedly created by a neighborhood mom, mocked her in cyberspace” (135). What happened was that a woman in the girl’s neighborhood created a fake profile on a social networking site and lured the girl into the site. She became close to the little girl, earned her trust, and learned all her secrets only to turn around and use the secrets against the thirteen year old girl. This ultimately led the teenage girl to suicide. Such an incident shows that no matter how much you believe you know someone you met online, you can never be certain that they are really who they claim to be. This means that you could be sharing information online with a total stranger.
Furthermore, the lasting consequences of sharing information online can haunt you for the rest of your life because there are no guarantees that these posts can ever be completely deleted. While addressing school children, the president of the United States made his concern about social networking when he cautioned: “Be careful about what you post on Facebook because in the You Tube age, whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life” (Obama). All the posts you make online can never be completely deleted because they are archived in a database or are downloaded and saved by other members of the site. What may seem insignificant today may have dire implications years from now when you are starting on a career. For example, to receive any type of security clearance in the public or law enforcement agencies, you must complete a thorough background check which inescapably will include all the online profiles you have ever created.
Another area of concern when assessing the long-term ramifications of information sharing on social networking sites is the risks of keeping minimum privacy settings. Everyday that you fail to keep your privacy settings high is another day that you increase your exposure to cybercrime. Consumer Reports journal reported that “cyber crime cost US consumers $4.5 billion and 2.1 million PCs” (25). With just a few clicks these cyber criminals are able to gain your home phone number, mailing address, your date of birth, and even mother’s maiden name. They are able to get all the information needed to not only steal your money and your identity as well. All this is made possible by the information you have listed on your profile in a social networking site.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to safeguard your personal identity without deleting your social networking accounts. The first step to safe communication would involve changing your privacy settings on all of your online profiles. It is commonly suggested to limit all privacy setting to trusted friends only. Be watchful of what you are posting online. It is also important to remember not to post anything personal unless you trust those viewing it. Finally, it is highly recommended that you strictly limit the amount of personal information, such as birthdays, that you publish. Consumer reports suggest that online captions should not bear your child’s name.
In conclusion, online social networks can be a great form of communication but one should exercise extreme caution in sharing of private information. It is wise to remember that sharing too much information on social network sites may have immediate consequences that might catch you unawares. It is also important to understand the extreme consequences that might arise from posting private information on social networks. Young adults have lost their lives by either getting too caught up in online social networking sites by releasing valuable information. It is noteworthy to remember that the things that you post online today can have long lasting consequences and may come back to haunt you later on in life. Deleting your profile is never enough if you intend to be safe. You need to take precautionary steps to safe online communication and interaction by exercising restraint in giving out private information. With this knowledge the first step to safe communication would be to log into your favorite networking site to change your privacy settings and make a solemn vow never to give away personal information. Remember you are doing this not only for your personal safety but for the safety of your entire family as well.
Hewitt, Bill, Siobhan Morrissey, and Pam Grout. “Did a Cruel Hoax Lead to SUICIDE?.” People(2007): 68.23, 135-136. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. EBSCO.
Hillinger, Mark. “The Consequences of Online Social Networking.” Dog Street Journal(Feb.2006):12. Abstract. Web. 9 Nov.2010.<http://www.dogstreetjournal.com/story/3086>.
McBride, Melissa. MySpace’ Details May Have Led to Fatal Party Shooting. KABC/TV. LOSANGELES, CA. 9 Nov. 2007. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local&id=5501322>.
Obama, Barrack. Remarks by the President in Discussion with 9th Graders. Wakefield HighSchool Arlington, Virginia. The Whitehouse. 8 Sept. 2009. Web. 9 Nov. 2010.<http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarkspresidentdiscussion-with-9thgraders-wakefield-high-school>.
“Social insecurity. (Cover story).” Consumer Reports (2010): 75.6, 24-27. Academic SearchPremier. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. EBSCO.