How Dangerous Can Social Media Really Be?

September 28, 2015

We all use social media for different purposes. For many of us it is a place to share ideas and memories with friends. On sites like LinkedIn we can network with others, which can help with job opportunities. These days, we can even swipe our way to finding a date on applications like Tinder. However, are there any downsides to using social media? And are there any dangers to opening your life up to scrutiny online?
Addiction and anxiety


Mobile phone addiction has become such an issue that there is now a name for those with a fear of being without their phone, nomophobia. There are millions of smart phone users around the world, and more and more of our time is being spent using the internet on these devices. This shift in user behaviour has meant that phone calls have fallen to the sixth most common activity undertaken on a mobile phone, according to a recent survey. While we might traditionally think that social media is the preserve of the young, a Mobile Marketing survey actually showed the most active users were in the 25-54 years old category. Alongside addiction there are additional problems that come alongside this obsession with technology and social media. A study undertaken by the University of Missouri showed that smartphone users separated from their devices showed the physical traits of anxiety, including elevated heart rate and higher blood pressure.


Opening yourself up to crime
While many of us might feel safe behind our computer screens there is evidence social media can leave us vulnerable to crime, and not just in cyberspace either. Over 75% of burglars surveyed now believe that other burglars are using social media to find their targets – but how? Criminals use a number of methods to help make their job easier. For example, when you take a photograph and upload it to the internet, the location and time is often logged as EXIF data. This data can be used to help track your location and therefore create a target. Burglars have also been known to use social media location updates to keep track of victim’s schedules and to help decide the best time to pounce on an empty house.


You could hurt your job prospects
As well as the potential for crime, our social media activity could also have an effect on your job prospects. The positive side is that we can use social to really boost our online presence. By using platforms such as LinkedIn to log our achievements and new job positions, as well as getting testimonials and endorsements from colleagues, you can build a corroborated online CV that can help us with current and future job prospects. However, it’s best to be wary of the potential negative impacts social media can bring. When sharing parts of your life online there will inevitably be information you don’t want prospective employers to see. As a result, you should be aware of your privacy settings to avoid the wrong people seeing the wrong things. If in doubt, ask yourself: “Would I want my boss to see this?”


It can be a big distraction
The ‘driving selfie’ is a strange craze. Many of us have received Snapchat videos from friends singing in their cars or seen pictures uploaded to Instagram of two friends behind the wheel speeding down the motorway – but have any of us questioned it? A recent survey found that a third of young drivers have taken a selfie while behind the wheel. When you couple this statistic with the fact that 22% of fatal accidents on roads are attributed to distractions from mobile phones, it starts to sound like a problem.


So, how dangerous can social media be? There are inherent risks with overuse of these platforms. Addiction is a serious issue that should be considered similar to those addicted to gaming or gambling. Social can also open up users to the possibility of crime both online and in reality if used irresponsibly. As with anything it comes down to responsibility. Social is fun, it can even be a thrill, but just like the thrill of a bungee jump you should make sure you take the correct precautions before taking a plunge.

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