The Hidden Dangers of Social Media
Most young adults today use social media with little regard for the potential dangers lurking just below the surface.
Many of the sites they frequent, such as Facebook or Twitter, are hinged on the integration of “online” and “real life” realms, which has lead to few minors adopting any precautions to hide their actual identities.
Threats lurk in unexpected places
When considering potential threats, it’s important to differentiate between the types of “stalking” referred to by users, as this word is passed around quite frequently.
What’s casually known as “stalking” amongst users, where a person visits and inspects another individual’s page without leaving any trace they were there, is a gimmick common amongst high school students who are too shy to approach their classmates or “crushes” in person.
Naturally this playful form of communication poses little threat compared to the tactics used by actual predators. By analyzing pictures and updates, strangers can easily deduce the approximate home addresses or even schools of young victims without needing to directly contact their prey.
Although due to the social nature of these sites, if a predator ever decided to initiate contact through an explicit or criminal message to someone they’ve been watching from afar, there are zero barriers restricting them from sending even the most vile of notes.
Worse, social media sites can also serve as the perfect hunting grounds for pedophiles who are searching for a potential victim, as many of these sites host countless ignorant users as young as nine.
Oftentimes such individuals cannot differentiate between appropriate communications and those that seek to exploit them.
Predators lurking as children
While the intimate nature of social media would make an outsider believe that this could prevent the threats linked to “stranger danger” by enabling children to recognize a strange adult amongst their underage peers more easily, many criminals have found a way around this.
Predators can effortlessly create a fake persona using a picture of a youngster that could easily be mistaken for a classmate.
Additionally, social media sites put past victims of stalking at a greater risk, as every site allows participants to search for other users via their real names, locations, or even by the schools they’ve attended.
This function has driven numerous users who live in fear to register using fake names and generic pictures, so that they can still enjoy the benefits of the website without having to worry about being tracked down by their stalkers.
However, this often only occurs after contact has already been made using a site and is rarely adopted as a preventative measure. Unfortunately the same risks can be applied to those who are currently being stalked and are unaware of it, as they are unintentionally giving their pursuer an uncensored window into the intimacies of their life.
Social media “addiction” can seriously impact learning
Of course, risks associated with other people are not the only dangers that social media use entails. When a person receives a “like” or a “friend request”, it releases a dose of chemicals in the brain similar to those of a stimulant drug.
This mini-high can easily be fostered into a full-blown addiction. For students as young as sixth graders all the way to those involved in post-graduate studies, a class period can often be too long a time period to be away from their device of choice.
Countless institutions have been driven to impose strict anti-phone policies to avoid the rampant checking of updated statuses. Such computer and social media addictions have grown increasingly common in the last decade, prompting the creation of a new wing of addiction psychology.
Despite the growing awareness about the issue of addiction, over-use of social media sites still prove to be a taxing time sink for many students and the force behind declining grades.
The pressure to be popular
Perhaps the most hidden danger of social media use is the ever increasing pressure sites place on its users’ social lives. Popularity is instantly calculated based on “friend counts”, “likes”, and “retweets”, leaving those who lack in these vital numbers to be abandoned as misfits or losers.
In addition to adding stress to young adults’ already strained struggle to fit in, it also exaggerates the importance of petty social interactions.
No longer are individuals judged based on their actual merit as friends or shared experiences but rather what value they possess on assisting others to climb the social hierarchy of their institution or social click.
While social media proved to be a valuable tool during its infancy, it has now transformed into a weapon yielded by the most heinous of perpetrators and a vice comparable to gambling.
Through education and careful clicking, parents, children, and even adult users can create a safe online atmosphere.