Social Media: What to Fear and How to Deal With It

While social media has acted as a tool that connects people across the world, it has also introduced a new set of problems and you need to be on the lookout for them. (Image: via  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
While social media has acted as a tool that connects people across the world, it has also introduced a new set of problems and you need to be on the lookout for them. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Of the 3.43 billion Internet users globally, about 2.28 billion of them use social media in some capacity on a regular basis. While social media has acted as a tool that connects people across the world by blurring the lines of race, religion, and culture, it has also introduced a new set of problems and you need to be on the lookout for them.

Privacy discarded

Social media is a place where people share the affairs of their lives. But you should always use caution so that you don’t overshare any personal information that could eventually end up harming you or your dependents. People with bad intent can use such information to wreak havoc in your life.

For instance, imagine that you share the details of your family vacation next week on your social media account. While this might seem like a simple status update, you have actually taken a risk in the sense that you have divulged your future absence. “If malicious users stumble across the information and know where you live, or are cyber savvy enough to snoop and find out, they could plan a break-in and steal from you while you’re out of town,” Matthew Hutchinson, vice president at WhiteHat Security, said to Forbes.

Similarly, posting content about personal problems can attract predators who want to take advantage of your situation. Someone who writes how depressed they are on a regular basis may be setting themselves up as a potential target. People who write about loneliness are as well.

Another direct potential danger from social media use is depression. A study by the University of Pennsylvania asked subjects to limit their use of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to 10 minutes per day for a total of 30 minutes or continue with just a single platform. The participants reported improvements in their mental state after a 3-week period.

In one study, participants reported improvements in their mental state after a three week period of limiting their use of social media to a single platform daily. (Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

In one study, participants reported improvements in their mental state after a 3-week period of limiting their use of social media to a single platform daily. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study… Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours,” Melissa G. Hunt, author of the study, said to Forbes.

Social media protection

To protect yourself from the negative effects of social media, you need to focus on securing private information as well as avoiding overexposure. Adjust your privacy settings and make sure that whatever you share is only available to your friends and not to all the strangers across the world. Ensure that any “friend” you add on your platform does not have a shady history. Avoid sharing information that might put you in danger. For instance, do not share your location, financial details, emotional situation, or your children’s details in a public post.

When it comes to psychological protection, always practice a detox period where you avoid social media for a fixed period of time. Abstaining from Facebook for a week has been shown to lower stress and increase life satisfaction among users. Follow some inspirational or funny pages so that your feed is populated with such content. But it’s no substitute for getting out of the house, meeting people face-to-face, and experiencing the world like it’s meant to be experienced.

Children and the circle of safety

A special note we need to add is regarding the safety of children, the most vulnerable. Many predators are spread throughout the world with malicious intent to harm your children. You must realize this fact. Do not post your kids’ pictures on social media to be on the safe side. Even if you do, do not make them clear or take pictures mostly from the back so that their faces are not revealed.

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If you post pictures of your kids on social media, do not make them clear or take pictures mostly from the back so that their faces are not revealed. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

You must train them not to interact with people outside of your immediate circle of friends and family. Discretion must be instructed at an early age along with instructions to inform you of any untoward comment, gesture, or action. Even from someone within the circle of safety. Don’t hold back on monitoring their activities up to a certain age. As a parent or guardian, it is within your prerogative to ensure that safety is maintained.

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