The Power And Danger Of Social Media

As the world is getting more connected and more people are getting into social media, one is seeing just how powerful a medium it can be. Last year alone social media was credited with bringing down the governments of a few countries, forcing bank reform, raising millions of dollars for charity, saving lots of lives, finding children and killers, and a host of other things. It’s amazing what can happen when people get mentally engaged in something, even if it’s not in their area or might not personally affect them, and decide to do something.

via Flickr

But there’s also a major danger in social media. Obviously the biggest issues are that free speech isn’t free and privacy is a myth. Let’s talk about each of these for a few minutes.

We saw some interesting things happen in just the last week. The president of UFC, Ultimate Fighting Champions, decided not only to go live in giving his approval for a stance against SOPA (that wasn’t going to be popular), saying that content from his company is regularly stolen and costs him and his performers a lot of money, but then he decided to personally take on Anonymous (y’all have to have heard of these people), a group that’s shut down federal government websites, Twitter, LinkedIn, Sony… well, let’s just say that they’ve flexed their muscle in ways that prove that, for now, they’re probably the most dangerous online group of people in the world.

There are times when “being a man”, which means you believe you can engage someone in a fair fight to teach them a lesson, needs to be modified when you have no idea what you’re talking about. This guy, Dana White, called these folks all kinds of names, then dared them to come after him. I believe he thought someone would show up at his office one day and challenge him to a fight; nope, that wasn’t happening. Instead, Anonymous shut down his site. But that wasn’t all. They then posted all his personal information online, including his social security number, his private phone numbers (not so private anymore), and other private information. The next day Mr. White held a press conference to talk about upcoming fights; he never mentioned his verbal battle and when questioned ignored it. Yeah, learned that lesson just a little bit late.

From my perspective we should both be happy and scared of what social media has become.

We should be elated because, by participating, we never know when one day we might be “discovered” for our words or our videos or our pictures and become a big deal. We never know if our cause will touch someone or many someones or the right someone and get them to take action on our behalf.

We should be scared for exactly the same reason. People can turn against us for the very same things mentioned above if we’re stupid or make a mistake and the “wrong” people see it and decide to use it against us. Or the right people, especially when people are being stupid on topics concerning things such as race. If you don’t think you’ll get called out for taking a stance, serious or not, against a group of people, without justification, you’re not thinking straight.

Of course, I can’t go without mentioning the new Google privacy policy, if one can call it that, which goes into effect March 1st. I’ve often said that sites have the right to do whatever they want to do and that we all have the right to participate or not. That’s Google’s stance; they get to merge all the information they have on you and if you don’t like it, leave. Facebook will probably be doing the same thing soon as well. This comes about because of government complaints that their privacy policy was too confusing; nothing confusing about the new policy, that’s for sure. The new Search Plus Your World process on Google was an indication that privacy is all over, and it’s Google’s belief that it’s for our “benefit”. No matter what you think about this, you can’t dismiss the reality that privacy is dead, and there really isn’t any getting out of it, no matter what Google or Facebook may try to make you believe. Here’s Google’s video about it:

Social media can be one of your best friends. I’ve met many people I’d have never had the opportunity to talk to because of social media. It allows me to blog and get my opinions off my mind and into the open. It allows me to experience things that I’ll never experience in person, both good and bad. I’m one of those people that would be lost without social media; thanks for being around.

Social media can be your worst enemy as well. You can be bullied and made fun of. Your “private” information can get out there; heck, it’s already out there for the right price. You can be made fun of, you can be outed, you can be castigated, you can be introduced to things you probably didn’t want to know (who remembers the 2 Girls & a Cup thing a couple of years ago; ugh), and you can be scared to ever get on a computer again.

Here’s the thing; social media, in the long run, it just like everything else. There are always two sides to something, and depending on who you are, they’ll have the ability to affect you differently. Kind of like peanuts; some people can eat them without worry, others have allergies that can kill them. Which side of the peanut fence are you on? By the way, how many times have you ever seen the phrase “peanut fence”? 😉

44 thoughts on “The Power And Danger Of Social Media”

  1. It’s the first time that I’ve heard about peanut fence. Yeah, I think social media also has drawbacks much as it has advantages. It depends on your goal. How about you? Which side of social media are you?

    Thanks for placing this argument here. I need to brainstorm more on the answer to your question above.


    1. Leeve, I’m a blogger, so I see social media as more positive than negative. I think there are those that can make it irritating here and there, but overall there’s so much more good with it, and potentially beneficial as well.

  2. It’s scary to see the changes happening. It’s hard to know what the end result of this all is? Do these companies really want to track our every move or do they just want to help companies make more money? Either way, its hard not to think that their is some motive of control here.

    1. Jordan, these companies want to track our every move so they can market to us better. Google says in the same sentence that they want to improve the user experience by tracking us so they can send us better targeted ads that give us what they perceive we want. I’m not quite certain that improves my user experience all that much.

  3. Well timed Mitch. All true, and scary knowing that what you write can be twisted and taken out of context. No wonder so many people are frightened to ever comment on a post. And with the new NDAA laws, I fully understand that some people will self censor for fear of retribution. I’ve heard it’s already happening. That’s not healthy.

    I’m in the process of writing and editing a post right now. I hesitate to put it out there even though I stand by everything in it. I don’t like everything being linked, I don’t believe it’s necessary or helpful at this time.

    I love that I’ve met people from around the world in a spirit of sharing and supporting. That’s simply amazing, and so rewarding. I know my words have been helpful for people, as theirs have been for me – that could never have happened without a free and open internet.

    You just made up “peanut fence” … didn’t you??

    1. Actually Sue, it seems peanut fence isn’t a new phrase at all; and here I was hoping I was going to be an original. lol

      See, one of the things that you have to worry about is that you have a Blogger blog, which means that you’re connected to Google and thus if you say anything bad about them that they don’t like you could lose your blog. I don’t have that worry being self hosted, but it points out the dangers in a privacy policy that’s not really private if you can track your signed in members, no matter where they happen to be.

      The only censoring I do of myself is in not using any bad language, and at this stage of my life it’s not censoring at all, since I’ve never used bad language. I’ll say whatever I want to say, however I want to say it. Now, because it’s me and I have a certain background that makes my language fairly non-confrontational, even when I’m ranting, I’m in a fairly safe position. I don’t often worry about people misinterpreting my words, though it happens here and there. If one is ready to deal with the consequences, then so be it.

      I can’t remember who said this, but with great power comes great responsibility. Since we’re all part of the power of social media, I tend to believe we all need to be somewhat responsible for our part in it.

      1. yes, thankyou Mitch.
        Well, I’m not in the habit of being rude, but being an Aussie I know some of our expressions can be misinterpreted lol

        Having said that, I do try to use language in a thoughtful way, because words have such power – to harm or help. I’ll ask a trusted friend to proof what I’ve written (and I’m possibly making a mountain out of a molehill because, well that’s just the way I am)

        cheers Mitch. Have a beaut day/evening/night or whatever you’re up to 😉

        not sure if this is going to get posted twice or not at all, my computer isn’t happy in the heat (no aircon and it’s 30C in here. whew!)

  4. This is pretty scary. But then again anything that is beneficial in this world can easily be turn into a weapon of destruction in the wrong hands. I fear for my little kids who I know soon will be exposed to this kind of danger.

    1. Reese, don’t fear for the children because they’ll probably grow up in a world where many of the issues we’re dealing with now have either gone away or have become passe and no one cares anymore. It’s always those of us dealing with it as something new that have to help define it.

  5. I got the email from Google about their new policy but I ignored it because that stuff bores me. After reading this post I went back to have a quick read and I got bored part of the way through and so I didn’t read the whole thing. From what I did read though I gathered that Google was now being up front with what sort of information they were collecting from us. They were always doing it only now we know how much it actually involves.

    I’m not all that much into social media and the only one I really like is Twitter, probably because it takes the least amount of effort.

    1. Sire, the new Google privacy policy was very short so you must have gotten bored at the very beginning. lol However, you forget that social media also includes blogging, and so you’re greatly into it because you have multiple blogs and of course Wassup Blog is a big deal for you. We’ve both seen where someone can mess up on a blog post and have it turn into a major mess as well.

      1. I’ve never really considered blogging part of the social media but perhaps you are right. Then again you’re always right ;}

      2. At least you know that Sire. And if you’re read some of my other post you know that I’ve always said blogging is probably one of the most critical aspects of social media. After all, people aren’t just sharing links to news articles in places like Twitter and Google+. They share our content, which makes bloggers a very important and critical aspect of it.

  6. I struggle with Social Media as well, and shudder with what I see some people (including my kids) putting up on places like Facebook. There was a great example of the power of social media in Vancouver, BC last year, when the mobs took to the streets after the Canucks loss in the Stanley Cup hockey final – shame on them.

    People were bragging on Facebook from their smart phones, on how they’d just participated in trashing a police car, smashing windows etc, & even posting pics of themselves doing it.

    Fast forward, pretty near all have been arrested and are currently being sentenced.

    Pretty dumb, but an example of how lasting anything posted online is. Maybe Google will come after me after my post on my blog today!

    1. Yeah, we had a few wankers posting their escapades on YouTube that led the cops right to them People can be so stupid 😀

    2. Could happen Bruce, but they’d have to go after a heck of a lot of people before they got to you first. lol And you’re right about Vancouver because I saw an image that was taken from a high definition camera of a swath of the mob and, when you zeroed in, you could see each face clearly. As much as one might lament about the loss of privacy, there is still a modicum of privacy is we’re not stupid, such as putting up pictures of yourself drunk or naked or telling everyone where you are if you’re out of town. I still think there are more benefits than dangers, but one never knows what’s coming, right?

  7. I have found that like reading a good book, we social network to know that we are not alone. I will most likely read a blog, post or tweet, if I feel a universal connection to what you’re saying or experiencing. If, however, all you do is talk about shelling your sweet peas, I don’t give a flying fig. In fact, I don’t even know if sweet peas can be shelled.

    1. Rob, we’ll have to ask one of those plant people if peas are shelled, although I know some are taken out of those pods so it’s got to be called something. lol You make a great point though; we probably are afraid in our own way of being alone, and social media lets us find a lot of people at once. It’s strange for me being on Twitter late at night when I know almost every single person in my local circle is in bed and I’m not. Kind of lonely, yet I can always reach out to others that live across the globe because they’re wide awake.

  8. I’ve not properly read Google’s new privacy policy yet nor their new terms of service (did you know they’ve – apparently – changed that too?)but in a way I’m glad that they’ve simplified it – I found the old ones really difficult to understand.

    As for the loss of privacy, I give very little personal info on all the Google sites I use, from mail to youtube. I have a blogger blog still but don’t use it, it’s just kinda there. The trouble is that they own so many services and I suspect they’ll buy up even more. Between them it seems to me that Facebook and Google own most of the online world.

    Not sure about search, though. Are they going to be using bots to gather info or what?

    1. Hi Val, I’ve wondered how to find you and now I know. 🙂

      They already use bots and drop cookies onto our computers when we do search. They know where you are at all times already. If you use Gmail or have an Android smartphone or use Adsense or any of the other many things they have, they’ll connect them all because you use at least one of them, and then certain things you or someone else searches for will be found. Anyone that has a Blogpost blog will be connected since Google owns them as well. And strangely enough, if someone comments on your blog and uses a gmail email address, if someone they’re connected to searches something that is in line with something you wrote and they commented, it will show up on Google. So, indirectly, everyone has the possibility of showing up on Google’s search, though you could do with your current blog what I think you did with your other one, that being to shut it down so it can’t be found on Google, and therefore that will protect your privacy… some.

      1. I’ve been thinking of opening my current blog up to search engines again, but I want to do a bit of work on it first. I’ve found a lot of stuff of mine already on Google because it was in the cache from the first time round and never got taken down. Also my work is on Redbubble and they have sharing buttons (that I can’t turn off: no opt out) and I did have my work on another art site and despite leaving it a long time ago, my comments on other people’s work still show up. So I’m no stranger to stuff that is or was on one site appearing on another and then in a search engine.

        I’ve since read the new TOS and Privacy (Yahoo is also changing theirs, not just Google) and much as I dislike it I’m beginning to think that I’ve just got to come to terms with it (no pun intended on ‘terms’.)

      2. I hear you Val and I know what you mean. I haven’t gone so far in thinking that I would ever disengage, but I do know that I’ve found stuff online that people thought had totally gone away. If one has the dedication and a little bit of knowledge they can pretty much find anything that someone has put out. My wife probably has the right idea for the most part. I created a website for her along with a separate email address, and except for the few pictures I share of both of us she’s fairly nonexistent online, as she doesn’t do anything else. Any major information someone wants about her they’ll have to pay for; does anyone really care enough about it to want to pay for it?

  9. Social media is very powerful weapon and this is already proven even for the election is several countries. About SOPA, it will definitely fail. About this hacking group, well they tread Facebook 5 times last year and didn’t do anything reasonable.

    1. SOPA has been pulled Carl, but there will be something else coming. I don’t mind something to stop piracy, but the way they tried to do it wasn’t right. As to the rest, these people who want to cause issues are still able to do it at a moment’s notice, which is the scary part.

      1. Piracy will never stop and this is definitely now the way. Let’s face the truth – piracy is going mostly in 3rd world countries – I personally doubt that people there can afford software which cost more than $50, on the other hand I doubt that they have Paypal or credit card to buy it. Companies are not loosing money from this customers, because those people are not potential customers.

      2. Carl, they’re not losing to those folks, but when those folks steal the stuff & sell it to someone else, that’s when they lose. Even though it’s on a smaller scale, that’s why I go after sites that have scraped what I write; it’s my stuff and I want to be recognized for it on my site rather than allowing someone else to represent themselves as writing it.

  10. Hi Mitch!
    That’s exactly the reason why I don’t like social media – they want you to provide too much personal info. And the idea by Google to merge all accounts into one doesn’t appeal to me at all. I want to have different accs (if any) for different activities.

  11. It is true that there isn’t much privacy, but nobody forced you to put your naked pictures on facebook or make hateful comments. I don’t think Anonymous will ever post my confidential data because is not in my nature to create conflicts.

    1. Toma, that stuff is just sheer stupidity but it’s the thing younger people are willing to do. I’m not sure people from my generation wouldn’t have done it if the ability had been available. But it’s not that stuff that we worry about, but other things, such as someone deciding they can use personal pictures I might put on this blog for their own use, including marketing. That type of thing just won’t fly.

  12. I am concerned about the privacy of my daughter too, young children are too naive to realize the great importance of not sharing too much on FB for example, but I think we, adults should be OK, and social media is there to help us.

    1. That’s a legitimate thought Emilia, as so many kids get tricked by these predators looking for them. However, it’s adults that also share too much info, such as certain types of pictures of their kids in places like Facebook and telling too much about them. Social media overall isn’t a bad thing, but people do things inadvertently that make things dangerous for them and their families.

  13. As a blogger or content syndicator, social media like it or hate it is something you can’t ignore.

    I appreciate the issues with privacy etc but if you are using FB G+ etc whether you are a professional blogger or someone who plays around with the web just think about the amount of personal information you choose to share – its that simple, anyone naive enough to put their whole lives on FB are leaving themsleves open for this type of thing.

    As another point its too easy to find someones details from domain registrars and of course hosting details which will obviously include financial info and addresses – this I guess is what you were using here as an example, did you know its not all that difficult to hide the hosting information and add a layer of security by transfering domain registrations to a 3rd party company address.

    I haven’t done this yet but I think as you get more high profile and succesful you become a target – Im not there yet but hey who knows…..

    Yes social media is a double edge sword but so is anything like being famous, having too much money – we live in that world and we just have to work with it and apply resonable levels of protection at the same time.

    1. Great stuff Peter (what happened to your avatar?), and you’re right about people needing to find ways to protect some of their info by being careful. I have one of my accounts protected but not all of them, which pretty much means that some of my information is out there. However, because I work from home and market online, my information needs to be out there. But I’m not stupid; I protect a lot of things and I’ve only put out personal images that are fairly safe; actually, that’s all I have since I don’t drink. lol

      The thing is there are lots of people who don’t think about these things, and it’s people like me who try to warn them of the dangers, even while trying to help small businesses become more visible online. With every success there’s a potential danger; we don’t fear these things, we just watch out for them.

  14. You are absolutely right! There is much danger in social media usage, because of privacy. But we all should use carefully, paying attention on each word that we say here or each photo that we place here

  15. Hey Mitch, You’ve pretty much summed it all up when you said there’s two sides to everything. That’s exactly my thoughts. There’s pros and cons to everything. Social media is great for its faster and wider reach. And that very advantage can become dangerous or the biggest disadvantage when misused or when you go all out in the public about controversial topics. There are people who love social media and there are those who are loathe to it. It depends on their experience. But the fact is that you can’t ignore the power of social media. So its a good idea to tread the waters carefully and do the right things…

    1. Thanks for your comment Raj. Your line about not being able to ignore social media is spot on… well, except for my wife, who could care less about the internet in general. lol But for those of us who wade into the waters, we all need to know that the sharks out there can come up on shore to bite us at any time.

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