10 Reasons why Social Media is Bad for Everyone
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For many people, social media is a fun place to be. It's where we show off, where we connect with friends and loved ones, and where we sometimes meet new people and discover new interests. But all this comes with a price. Social media has a dark side which troubles many, including safety and privacy experts. Knowing what we know, should we still be on social media?
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How bad is social media?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - After nearly two decades of social media, much is known about how these networks operate and the benefits and dangers of using them. Here are some things you should know before you log on again and start sharing.
1. Nearly one quarter of social network accounts get hacked. In fact, this is such a common occurrence, everyone knows at least one, if not several people who've suffered such a fate. Hackers use accounts to steal identities, to access your friends, and to perpetuate various scams. They convince your friends to click links based on their trust for you, and instead of being rewarded, the hack spreads, or their identity is stolen.
The fact is, there is no other industry in the world where it is acceptable for one-quarter of its customers to suffer hijacking. But when it comes to social media, there are no consequences for perpetrators, or the networks that allow it to happen.
2. Cyberstalking is common, with about 12 percent of users being victimized. In fact, numbers are probably much higher. Cyberstalking happens when someone who should not have contact with you uses social media to access you. They may send messages, browse your pictures and personal information to find you, or simply keep tabs on you from afar. Some cyberstalkers are especially savvy, creating fake accounts, adding your friends, then adding you last in an effort to sneak into your life. This issue becomes worse when predators of every kind stalk or groom potential victims online. Most women report unwanted advances from men, in both messages and photographic form. And most people at some point or another are exposed to unsolicited messages which can include anything from unwanted marketing, or hostile speech.
3. Anonymity is difficult to preserve online. Even if a person creates a fake profile with a fake image, the social media networks can usually determine the identity of the person using IP addresses and other data points. Political affiliation, income level, education, and all kinds of preferences can be determined from a person's activity. And many social networks snoop even when you aren't using the network. Some access your browsing history, your phone records, and even listen to your speech when offline.
4. At the same time, you might not know who is on the other side of the screen. Just because the social network might be able to determine who is behind an account, you can never be sure. Fake profiles are used all the time to scam people, and you could be led to believe you are interacting with a friend, when actually it can be anyone. Fortunately, most scammers are actually bots and their interactions are unnatural and awkward. But sometimes, in the hands of a clever scammer, you might be interacting with someone you don't know. That person could be working to harm you.
5. Family members and employers could be spying on you. Family members are a common bane for many social media users. Post a picture of yourself on vacation or at a party, and who knows what someone might say. Of greater concern is when employers stalk their workers online. For example, if someone is wearing their company's brand logo while enjoying a drink and that photo is posted online, it could create an HR issue. Plenty of people have encountered problems at work because of something they or someone else posted online. And employers have a habit of vetting applicants by looking at social media profiles. A person wearing the wrong hat or shirt could find themselves rejected for a job or a promotion, without knowing why.
6. About 20 percent of social media users are sharing their location without realizing it. Social media companies want to know where you are so they can target relevant advertisements to you. But that means tracking you with GPS. Most people might not care, but that same data can be hacked. Your phones do the same thing, and can reveal where you've been going regularly to a person who knows where and how to look inside your device.
7. Most people don't understand how databases work. A database is a giant, virtual library that is hosted in the cloud. The cloud isn't really "cyberspace," it is someone else's computer, and it exists in the physical world. So everything you post online is saved on someone else's computer at a location you know nothing about. It gets worse. That data is often backed-up, meaning over time it is saved on multiple computers. And if you delete your content, it is still there. Deleting something only hides it from your view and the view of many end-users, but the content remains on the database, and in the backups. It will remain hidden, but it can be accessed by anyone determined to do so. Whatever you post online, even if you delete it, remains there forever. For many people, that won't be a concern, but if you plan to become a public person, or you commit a crime, that data can probably still be accessed.
8. Social media firms won't protect you. Sure, they say they will not share your data, but all firms are required to obey legal subpoenas. Conversely, if someone uses social media to commit a crime against you, you might find it very hard to obtain the data you need to help your case. Social media firms are out for themselves, and they aren't going to help you. But they will protect themselves against you.
9. Nearly one-third of all people on the planet are affected by data breaches. About 2.7 billion people have been impacted by data breaches, which stole their content. Usually, that data is a password, but it can also be financial information or other personal data.
10. Social network firms are growing beyond the reach of public officials. It's more than dodging taxes, it's about dodging regulations. Social media firms are finding new ways to dodge responsibilities. Incorporating overseas, moving servers, moving money and more, social media firms are escaping public scrutiny and control. They are also using profits to buy political and public influence. The result, many social media firms are becoming private powers, like nations unto themselves, and they are beholden to no nation or its laws. This might be a benefit when considering free speech and association, except social media firms guarantee no such thing. In fact, they are the masters of censorship.
With social networks growing too big for regulation and invading every aspect of our lives, it is more important now than ever to consider quitting them and to find alternatives. There are some ethical alternatives in the works, and soon we will present a better choice to all.
More to come soon!
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