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As Long as We Remember...

March 17, 2014

The dark side of “Social Media”

Steven R. Berryman

Last week I had the opportunity to tell my story of engagement with the social-media domain in a column called Amplifying on the Social Media phenomenon. That column covered the upside and opportunities that I found along the way. This one covers the down-side.


The reverse side of the coin starts with the king of all Social Media, Facebook, of course. Thanks to banks of computer servers the size of aircraft carriers, nothing that ever gets posted online – a hasty off color joke posted at midnight, for example – and then goes away. It’s there forever, in part so that future laws can go back and find out where you went wrong, and find your a worst case scenario.


Then there are the pictures teens refer to as “selfies.” These are glamor shots that teen girls add to Facebook and The Chive, and Instagram and other sites to advertise their attitude, and their appearance. Adding a permanent picture of the wrong tone can ruin a future-career, of course, as searching Social Media now is used much in job vetting.


Then, there is the policy side of Facebook, where they are not obligated to follow the laws of our Constitution. Concerning our First Amendment freedom of speech, they may, and will, and do edit posts and content placed on their billion member strong pages, and one could fairly call it censorship. The slant of a political post if poorly “chosen” will be tagged as such and steps to reduce its “visibility” to others is compromised. They do not want the wrong (agenda-wise) content to be able to “go viral.”


Then, there is the social media aspect of time usage, management, and waste, plus actual addiction, which, just like gambling and alcohol, are demonstrably real. Where the bright side is that those homebound or disabled are afforded more ability to reach out via their keyboards – extremely valuable to the elderly – some of the otherwise able-bodied are hooked.


There is a certain façade element in Facebook, for example, that allows users to create and invent their own amped-up version of their own persona; freely editing in and out personal aspects of a “profile” that accentuate the positive, and diminish the negative. This ability to live the fantasy of their best side can allow for self-deception, and reliance on an unrealistic façade.


Essentially, a well developed Facebook page, including best pictures, proudest moments, interesting “friends,” and brags on accomplishments becomes an “avater” of one's best self. Reality can be much harsher, and the temptation then begins to be to become the avatar itself.


Then, your online reputation begins to build. One gets new “friends” by referrals; old acquaintances may reconnect; and you both seek and are sought out. There is something powerful in the illusion of being in demand. Just ask any politician!


The constant checking back to Facebook, to see who has liked your posts, or to see who wants to be your friend now, can be a real time waster. Couple that with the built-in “messenger” ability to text friends on a Facebook application on an iPhone, for instance, will run down your battery in double-time, and distract from other normal human interactions.


So, guard yourself from the dark side of Social Media, and don’t get sucked-in too far. Go out and actually meet some of your online friends that you may know on Facebook and have never met.


Remain aware, and always remind yourself that, left unchecked, social media does have the potential to take over your life.


Hey, I just got friended by somebody I don’t know!


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