Menace of Social Media

Abdullah Saad
Posted Jun 30, 2010
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If this were any other day before the events of April-May 2010, anyone would have been crucified by the masses for doing such an article. In fact, a part of me – a major part of me – wouldn’t even agree with most of the issues raised in this piece. But times change, and particularly in the silicon industry, two months are more than enough to spark a debate on a world wide scale.

It is really hard to define what social media is. More specifically, it is very hard to define the exact bounds of social media – like when a connected or online experience becomes a social experience. For the sake of simplicity, we can say that every experience in which we interact with the society or people around us is a social experience, like Facebook or Twitter. But then we have corporate email, which I’m sure very few of you would find as much pleasant as an exchange of wily comments on a wall post or bashing an Apple fanboy on Twitter.

And ironically this fuzzy boundary is one of the biggest downsides of Social Media. When you’re ‘in the mood’ you won’t see the social limits you have in real life. For example, you might start hitting on the pretty girl who showed up in the people you may know section without realizing that she’s your boss’ wife.

Unfortunately these blurry walls work as a one way street; you can get in – but once you do – there is no getting out. Not now, not a couple of months later, not ever. And you wouldn’t actually start to realize what you have gotten into until your every conscious thought is about how Katie’s dog started dating Mike’s poodle while subconsciously you start believing that you really belong at a farm somewhere upstate growing herbs that teenagers could smoke through a pipe. There is such bloom of Social Media that no one is exempted from its influence. The popularity of Social Media is such that to surrender to its mightiness is a norm, rebellion to one which makes you not only an outcast but also so not ‘cool.’ The rising awareness of the World Wide Web and Social Media as more than just fun and games is gaining momentum and with time they are being knocked as hidden marketing treasures as well.

Still with me? Good. Here are a couple of more reasons that highlight (too much) exposure to social media might not be good for you in the long run, even though it may seem like it is the sure shot way to shit loads of cash and a possible new girlfriend who actually exists in real life.

Waste of time

Sure a connected experience enhances productivity. But just how much connected you need to be is the million dollar question. Most of the people overdo it. They’d spend valuable work hours on Tweeting and on Facebook instead of focusing on the tasks at hand. Now wonder most social networking sites are banned in some workspaces.

Privacy concerns

These concerns are not exaggerated and are very genuine. Big brother tabbing every keystroke that you make online is creepy and we don’t remember that at all instances but it is rumored to be happening. Most people don’t really give a rat’s ass about what they are posting online. That’s not a really bad thing if you know where are you posting it, and just how many people can access it. Unfortunately, the problem is that most people just don’t know that, and they usually have no clue on how to protect their privacy online. Most people do learn their lessons eventually, though that’s usually after their girlfriend/boyfriend see their photos of partying with their ex on Facebook.

Real-life interactions only as the last resort

My parents tell me there was a time when they used to hook up with their friends and enjoyed the night out in town. Actually even I do have vague memories from about five years ago when I used to hang out with friends over the weekend. Now, we see each other every day. No matter what the time is, we are always in touch. The only problem – it almost always involves a screen and talking into a microphone. Other than that, we do hook up once or twice a year so that we can make a new group photo for Facebook.

Fabricated Facts

There is no guarantee of truth; no certification of what you see or read is fabrication, exaggeration or complete truth. Let’s be honest; how many times have we been fully honest online. You know no bending the facts here, no exaggeration there. I’m sure the answer is almost zero. We can conclude the same for others as well. Lying and fabricating facts online has become a part of life. It’s something that we do subconsciously, and because of that trust among our friends also suffer. We are always uncertain If the other person is telling the truth or not. The lack of connection to real life has further thinned down the already very thin line between fantasy and the real life. In addition is the rumor mill any news without verification of truth is spread like wild fire without any concern for consequences.

Identity Theft

Again playing with the trust of the community is common on social media. Anyone can pretend to be anyone, anyone can misuse anyone’s identity; anyone can usurp individual’s right by using for themselves someone else’s personal information. Some people do it for fun – like create a fake profile of their favorite celebrity. Others do it for their own reasons. But no one actually bothers to think or even care that this is a serious crime or what would be the effect on the person who we are impersonating.

Standardized Approach

Different people in our lives deserve different sort of attention, One thing that always stings about Social Media is that its idea of social connections is very limited. Your mom is your friend, your uncle is your friend, your daughter is your friend, and the fat guy delivering grocery supplies to your favorite coffee shop is your friend. And all these friends have the same level of access to your life. The acquaintances stand in the same shelf as friends and friends in the same league as coworkers. Of course networks like Facebook have come a long way to allow some separation of roles, but unfortunately most people still aren’t savvy enough to use these features.

Health issues

It makes not only physical affiliation difficult but also forces all health activities to take a back seat. Okay sure you are less likely to be affected by STDs. But at the same time, you are gaining wait, loosing hair, and are running the risk of a heart attack. More interaction and communication online means less physical activities and natural workout you used to get when had a real life. The result is a fat, bald person who wears big spectacles and also potentially reeks – even though he’s only 24.

Conflict of Interest among the masses

Most communities represent the world as they are a blend of all genders from all nationalities of all ethnic backgrounds. In this pick and mix the likelihood of a confrontation is increased by manifolds. Sure there is a lot of conflict of interest in real life as well, but when it comes to social media and the connected world, you are up against billions of people who are more likely to see things from a different perspective than not. Something what is okay or even a basic right of one person might be enough reason to kill for someone else.

Yeah I’m referring to the whole Facebook vs. Muslim World controversy that emerged recently. Both groups had totally opposing beliefs on a common issue and things easily got escalated. In fact a couple of years ago, it had even come to violent riots where thousands of lives were claimed. It’s not like these things just suddenly started appearing out of nothingness. They were there from the start of man (or religion). It’s only that we weren’t as much connected before as we are now.

At the end, I would like to highlight the fact (again) that I am not against social media at all. I just happened to write an article on the subject in a more casual tone. Social Media is an innovation, one that is in the process of evolution but one thing I am certain of is that we are yet to see the true face of Social Media. Like most technologies and innovations from the Silicon Valley, Social Media is here to stay and the road has just begun. It is yet to be seen where more it will go and what more turns it has potential to take. Fasten up; the ride is bound to get bumpy

Ultimately, it is our job to make this technology a tool for the good of the society. After all, Social Media has given us a far greater power than we ever had – now it’s time we show a bit more responsibility.

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