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”? 😉
 

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