It’s a different world out there as more people are tweeting, meeting and friending left and right. The explosion of social media has brought a lot of light to the online community for purposes beyond practical use. However, some people are very hesitant to get involved because they are wary of sharing personal information.
Any internet user should definitely be smart about what information they are displaying, but to cite a great point from a fellow social media user, Mattan Ingram, there is a difference between privacy and security. Before you put up the paranoia guard, there are a few things to keep in mind:
You get what you put into social media
If new media is being used solely for purposes that the general public is not interested in, then it’s not as much of a concern that you will be “discovered” and “passed on”.
Viral marketing is only really successful if many links on the communication chain are interested in passing the information on. If someone is too paranoid to be followed by or chat with a stranger on Twitter, then it will be impossible for them to really understand and utilize social media effectively because that is the beauty of social media. The rise of social media increases open two-way communication. As Mattan said,
“The more transparent society is, the better and healthier it will be. We just have to get through the adjustment period. Transparency is not just top down, Big Brother style. It goes both ways.”
This applies to many areas, from consumer-business relationships to government-citizen relationships. The paranoid resisters are actually the ones that could benefit the most from social media; yes by putting up a profile on Facebook, you allow others a snapshot into your life, but in turn you’re also allowed access to theirs. Again, this can apply to individuals, businesses, or government.
We are not lost behind the computer screen. You still have your identity and it is an extension of your being
In a different vein, some people use social media interactions to hide behind a computer screen and act in a completely inappropriate fashion…Ever read YouTube video comments? It’s best not to if you want to keep faith in mankind. To be honest, many of these people probably would never say those things face-to-face, but for some reason have a really nasty internet alter ego.
Be it comments on other peoples’ blogs, YouTube videos, or other opinions, some people really take their comments to the level of just blatantly offensive. This deters a lot of people from using social media because they just don’t want to deal with arrogant rude people, or are afraid then of voicing their own valuable opinions.
Now with more streamlining, such as Facebook Connect, where a Facebook user can use their account to log in to other 3rd party websites, instead of making a separate one for that site, our identities are following us online. This may again strike a note of paranoia in some, but if you think about it, it could actually make the internet community closer and safer.
Of course there will always be weirdos, people who make multiple fake accounts, hackers, etc, but isn’t that say the same for face to face interactions? There will always be people who cut you in line, people with road rage, criminals, etc., but as long as you are smart with what information is put online, just the same way you lock your car door, then we can continue to be comfortable in the online community. For example, if you are reading a review on Citysearch, it has more merit when you can see their Facebook profile and know there is a real person behind it, even if it is a stranger. It eliminates the internet unknown, which is what strikes fear in some.
Where does this leave social media?
While not everyone is on board, there are plenty of people who see new media and internet services as an opportunity for information and positive communication. I consider E-mail, Instant Messaging, and other internet based communication as an opportunity to think about what you say before you open your mouth, instead of saying something completely distasteful, and not having to deal with repercussions, or anyone seeing who the person behind the screen is.
I must say that opinions are great. I like when people don’t agree with me because that is the basis of a good conversation (read: conversation, not a YouTube comment battle). However, when people take disagreements out of context and make personal insults, they are not going to get anything of value from their social media presence, and will also deter others from interacting.
Even though social media is being stunted by two angles, paranoia and terrorizing others, by nature, social media is working on breaking down these barriers. Paranoia is being resolved as more people begin to see that these platforms are used for listening to others, gaining insight/opinions, and communicating with people they normally wouldn’t. Online bullying is being battled inadvertently by creating more ties between different internet platforms. There will always be some resistance, but ironically it could be that as social media grows, it has the potential to resolve some of the current oppositions.
How do you feel about social media? Have you embraced it yet? How can we help make the online community more constructive? Please feel free to share thoughts, comments, ideas.