There are many different types of social media on the internet, which are user generated and where we can share opinions and ideas with other people all over the world. What we often forget is that this is a public arena with the potential to pass our information on to undesirable people.
You can create your own profile, so you can be whoever you like on the internet, but do you consider the implications of what you say and do in the social media arena?
Watch the YouTube video below. What do you think the person behind this animation feels about social media himself? Do you agree with him?
User Generated Sites
Social Media are internet arenas that allow users to create various profiles to meet up with other people or share information in a network. There has been huge increase in the number of these social media. Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia are among the most widespread today. Social media are by definition user-generated sites. So there are many types of social media, and they grow fast and may disappear quickly. They all require you to log in and establish some kind of user account. Actually, a social media may be interwoven in a traditional news media – like with all the discussion forums found at the end of news articles.
YouTube and Wikipedia are, as indicated, also social media - but while Facebook focuses on people and what they do, Wikipedia and YouTube focus on sharing information and media contents. What they have in common is that they are user-generated and allow sharing of opinions and ideas. There are user-generated sites for most activities, like creating music, developing software, pruning grapes and pretty much every imaginable topic. They vary from the all-encompassing sites where you share everything about yourself to What do I do when things turn green? - sites.
Facebook is very popular at the moment, but may be gone in a few years. What they all have in common is a lot of fine print with legal statements. Did you know that you by default give Facebook copyright for all your pictures? You may think that just because many use Facebook, it is safe and sound – but how many read the legal texts?
Twitter is yet another variant of social media. But this is text based and fast. Using Twitter, you may keep people updated as to what you are doing. Twitter is excellent at sharing specific information during specific events – like sports events, concerts and so on.
Your Alter Ego?
There are numerous fun aspects of social media. You can meet people from all over the world and you can pretend to be what you always dreamed of becoming. You may get advice from others who don’t know your real name, which leaves it a bit safer to explain intricate or touchy problems. Basically, it is a virtual world where you can model and shape your profile according to your own desires.
Many of us prefer to use rather cryptic user names on social arenas, and we may take on various personalities, like in a carnival. Others just want to share their lives and what they experience with others.Of course, if you want to stay in touch with friends and family on e.g. Facebook, you need to be recognizable. But then you also expose yourself, and there are quite a few over-curious souls out there who just like to pry into other people's lives. Fortunately, none of us are like that.
Sadly, there is a lot of evidence that people slip up or do things they regret. They may think they’re untouchable behind the screen in their own room and fail to recognize that once they push ‘enter’ the text or imagery is out there for everyone to manipulate and abuse. Many young girls have experienced that pictures taken in a private setting have become public overnight. The Internet is very unforgiving in such matters: precisely because it provides and spreads information unimaginably fast, it may be very destructive.
What You Share Is Public
Though it may be fun to pretend to be some cartoon figure or celebrity or just a crazy, self-absorbed character, the downside of social media is that you run the risk of getting involved with people who may turn out to be hustlers or child predators. Their façade may be that of a school counselor or a young, innocent boy. You just don’t know. Giving away personal information or hooking up with people based on virtual meetings is therefore potentially unsafe. Some enjoy the excitement of not knowing what they are getting involved in, but there's a high price to pay if you hook up with the wrong crowd. Just keep in mind that strangers may not be what they claim to be, and what you share on the Internet is public – in other words, out of your control.
Anonymous = Irresponsible?
The possibility to create your own identities has been criticized by some because it allows people to act crazy and irresponsible. An expert on Internet safety suggested that it would be a lot safer if everyone had to get out there with their real names; then everything would be traceable, and thereby safer. One suggestion is that, like with a cell phone, there should be a number and a personal account for every Internet entry.This would leave each individual responsible for what he/she has said and done. Though this may be a very good idea for tracking down criminals, it contradicts the very essential idea of being anonymous on the Internet.