Social networking websites, such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, have blown up immensely in just a short span of about 5 years; most people nowadays have found that these and other social networking sites have become a “necessity” in their lives and must constantly be checking in on them. Social networking sites such as the ones mentioned above allow anyone to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and blog just about anything under the sun. For that and many other reasons it is not unusual nowadays to hear people talk about their status updates, picture uploads and the friends they have made on social networking sites on a regular basis. Social networking sites seem like easy ways to make new friends or to express one’s feelings. Since they account for 11% of all time spent on the internet, they must be one hundred percent reliable and safe, right? No (Hird). Although social networking sites provide us with a seemingly safe way to reconnect with and make new friends, you run many risks, such as identity theft, exposure to strangers, cyberbullying and even addiction.
Social networking sites enable you to post personal information about yourself; many times it is required for you to post information such as your birthday, city, state, etc. in order to make an account with these sites. Although posting such information might be a much easier way for the website to direct you to people you share common interests with, it sometimes isn’t the safest way to do it. According to an online article “Are Social Networking Sites Good for our Society?” cybercriminals can now gather and collect all the information people have on their profiles and use it against them to commit fraud, otherwise known as identity theft. When social networking sites were new to the internet, identity theft occurred scarcely, but since 2008 has increased by 240% (“Are SNS Good for our Society?”).
Not only are social networking sites filled with cybercriminals looking to steal personal information, but they are also filled with malicious links and ads that turn out to be scams and end up causing viruses on users’ computers. Social networking sites do not scan messages or posts for viruses or any other type of phishing scams, which make it impossible to know whether a person is safe or not (“Are SNS Good for our Society”). Many times, if not all, the malicious links of the social networking site you are on lead you to websites asking for your personal information, like your address, name, and phone number; those sites are meant for identity theft as well.
Social networking sites enable you to talk to people from around the globe, to make new friends and meet new people who live in the same area as you, which in turn can allow you to have “friends” near your home and even allow you to go out with them. Social networking sites let you find these people close to you, but they don’t verify that they really are who they say they are. There have been many cases where sex offenders go online, make accounts posing as young, attractive men and they lure young girls into meeting up and running away together. Such is the case of a 15 year old girl in Florida who was lured into running away with a 46 year old man posing as a 24 year old.
She went away with him, but he was arrested and she was found miles from home. Luckily he hadn’t done anything to her and she was safe. “Taylor Behl, a 17 year old college student met a man the same way, but her life was ended on her eighteenth birthday” by him (Akre, InjuryBoard.com). These social networking sites are trying to get rid of all registered sex offenders, but even if they manage to track them down and ban them, they can’t stop them from creating a new account under different information. These sites have no way to verify that people really are who they claim to be, leaving other users open to danger and solicitations from online predators (“Are SNS Good for our Society?”).
Since social networking sites have gained so much popularity, teens use it on a daily basis to talk just about everything they could possibly talk about; they gossip, talk about homework and sometimes even discuss events that were in the news. It is a place where they can vent and talk about everything to each other, and yes, many teens use it for those purposes, but others abuse of the liberty they have with the internet. In the past three years, there have been many cases in the news where teens get together and bully and harass other teens online, sometimes up until the point where they can’t handle the constant bullying anymore and commit suicide. Cyber bullies use the internet as their medium to say things they wouldn’t normally say in person, and since it is more public, they know they are doing much more [public] harm to the person.
Take the Megan Meier case as an example; Megan thought she had struck up a romantic friendship with a new boy through MySpace and she thought she was in love. The boy was not real; he was made up by an ex-friend of Megan, and her parents! Once Megan found out about what was going on, the “boy” started calling her names and caused Megan to commit suicide (“Stories of Cyber Bullying”). Many cases of teens committing suicide have been linked to cyberbullying. Others haven’t had such tragic endings, but still end in suffering of depression from “…going repeatedly over the issues they face… can in turn lead in a depressed state of mind (“Too much SN Linked to Depression”).” Cyberbullying is not something that should be considered lightly, for there are numerous other cases where teens have been humiliated, harassed and embarrassed to death through cyberbullying.
People who are linked to social networking sites have probably become aware of the increasing amount of time they spend on the computer while logged in to their profiles; many say it is normal due to the fact that games and other little things on the sites take time away from them. In reality, what they are going through is called the “obsessive factor” (“Are SNS Good for our Society?”). The obsessive factor is a condition where a person who is logged in to a social networking site cannot seem to log off, even though they claimed they would just update their status, or upload a few pictures. A great number of people on social networking sites today display this symptom. Spending an excessive amount of time online comes with other problems. Face-to-face interaction with other people decreases significantly, possibly leading into a state of isolation, which has been proved to happen to some people.
It has also been found that teens now spend an average of nine hours per week on social networking sites, which is a considerably large amount of time to be sitting in front of a computer (“Are SNS Good for our Society?”). Not only is a large amount of time spent on the computer, but healthy eating habits, exercise and overall health are thrown out the window since people spend so much time sitting in front of a computer. They become too lazy to go exercise or would rather go out to get some fast food, as opposed to a nice healthy homemade meal. Although some people may still find time to do so, others do not. Those problems, however, are not the only ones that come with social networking addiction. Drastic changes in people’s lifestyles may also occur.
It has been proven that social networking sites can actually cause personality and brain disorders due in part to not completely using the parts of the brain responsible for offline activities such as being social, running, etc (“Are SN Harmful To Society?”). Getting too attached to any one thing can have many bad effects on one’s life, and being addicted to something such as social networking sites, or just the internet can be extremely harmful to anyone both physically and mentally. Social networking addiction can also be caused by how easily one can access the sites nowadays. Social networking sites have gone mobile, thus, enticing students to be online while in class, adults while at work, or just about anywhere.
Although the dangers with using social networking might seem very small, even nonexistent while on the site, the dangers are in actuality very large in numbers, connecting yourself to a social networking community might not be the right thing to do and most people would advise others not to. Social networking sites have never been a safe online community and never will be unless they are extremely closely monitored 24/7; they can drastically change a person’s life, for the worse. Social networking sites are harmful to our society; the ways we communicate, meet and trust people, and live our lives are being changed in so many ways that we are sometimes even forgetting who we are. The best and only thing we can do now is to log off, permanently.