The Dangers of Social Media

One of the many gifts the twenty-first century has brought to the world is the use of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. With the touch of a button, and a few seconds of our time, we can connect instantly with our friends, family, and communities. The use of social media sites has changed the way we communicate with the world as well as how we project our feelings onto others. Information is flowing faster than ever before because of these sites, and if you're not careful, you can unintentionally harm yourself, friends, or loved ones.
On the surface, social websites are fun, beneficial, and productive. But when you go deep into the pages of tweets, pictures, and comments, social media sites can be a frightening tool used against the user. I can write about the stalkers, pedophiles, bullies, and others who abuse these sites for their own selfish gain, but instead of just stating my opinion on how dangerous these websites can be, I would rather show specific examples of how average social media users can set up their own demise without even knowing it.
My first example is twenty six-year old Brandon J. Raub, a former Marine who served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Raub posted lyrics from an anti-government song on his private Facebook account in the summer of 2012. According to the Huffington Post, the Virginia native was visited by the FBI, Secret Service, and local police as a result. Raub was then involuntarily detained for psychiatric evaluation without having his rights read to him, and the footage of his arrest was posted on YouTube for everyone to see.
Raub eventually was acquitted of all charges, but the fact remains that his posts on Facebook caused grief for both him and his loved ones. With the "Snowden" leaks pertaining to PRISM (Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management) becoming public, people are now aware that the National Security Agency (NSA) is working with social media sites and other companies, like Google and Yahoo, to track user data. So, if you're angry or frustrated with politics, be careful of what you post; it can possibly be stored in a data mining program by the NSA and used against you in the future.
While you may be thinking that you would never ever post any anti-government comments on your page, you might be posting pictures of yourself consuming alcohol or talking about how intoxicated you were for a night. The court system could use the social media sites you routinely visit against you. This brings me to my next example. According to the Chicago Tribune, in 2009, twenty year old Erika Scoliere was charged in a DUI-related case involving the death of one person. After authority figures saw pictures of her consuming alcohol on her Facebook page, she was fitted with an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet.
Another example is of former high school teacher Ashley Payne. At the age of twenty-four, she was suspended and eventually fired for posting pictures of herself drinking in 2009. According to AJC.com, or Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Payne lost her case in court because she was pressured into resigning from her position after parents complained on her Facebook page. This serves as a reminder for everyone that alcohol and social media sites do not mix. It is akin to playing with fire, and you will likely get burned. As students entering the work force, the last thing you want is for an employer to not hire you because of something on your Facebook page.
The next example is for all those who love to joke around about violent actions. Sure, you're kidding and just trying to share a little dark humor, but not everyone knows this. You might find yourself posting very macabre or grim jokes on the site you use, and it might end up being a nightmare. According to the New York Daily News, in June of 2013, nineteen-year old Jack Carter was joking about participating in a mass shooting at a school on the Facebook game called League of Legends. The Texas teen now faces eight years in jail after a woman in Canada saw the post and contacted police. Because of his immaturity, this young man's life might be altered in the worst way possible by doing jail time. Evidence does show he also commented "lol" and "JK" after his attempt at being funny. But that doesn't matter in the eyes of the law, and you can end up dealing with the same headache that the Carters are going through if you mirror his actions.
These are just a few of the many real life examples of the implications of using social media sites without being careful. I don't want to end this on a negative note because I do believe social media websites are great tools for engagement in this era of technology. While the dangers of using social media websites are becoming more apparent to the user, we should also remain aware that these social media websites can be used to enhance our professions as well.
As you go through the college experience and look for careers in the work force, a social media presence can be a valuable tool. Treat your page as if it's your own brand by showcasing your skills - and I don't mean drinking skills. If you're an artist or writer, use social media to express your beliefs and passions. If you want to start up a small business, connect with the local community through these sites. Social media sites aren't just for gossip, reading the thoughts of celebrities, or telling everyone how good your dinner was. These websites are there to help your image and to connect with people that have similar tastes and career goals.When you're thinking about sharing a picture of your half-naked body or you want to post a hateful comment because you are aggravated about something, remember to think twice before you click send because it could ruin your reputation and drastically alter your future.