The sad death of Hannah Smith in the last week brought social media back into the forefront of conversation. Bullying and trolls remain a concern. There have also been some criminal threats against prominent women on Twitter. It begs the question, how social is social media?
All social activity contains an element of risk. Society gives us huge advantages, such as the NHS. But equally, society contains crime, and the battle between the law and the criminals never seems to end. It’s not surprising that some of the darker sides of society are also found on social media.
But that shouldn’t put us off. Social media has many advantages. I’ve never tried using ask.fm, the site which appears to have contributed to the deep unhappiness of Hannah Smith. The closest I’ve come is following the link from someone I follow on Twitter. To be honest, I wasn’t keen on what I saw. To my fleeting eye, it seemed to be a free for all. But its apparent anarchic nature may be just what appeals to the teenager and young adult.
The number of social media sites continues to grow, each appealing to a particular demographic, and some more popular than others. There are sites that appeal particularly to musicians (such as Soundcloud). This week, I watched a programme called, “Extreme OCD Camp”. What struck me (apart from the bravery of the participants) was, at the end, it was clear that those who had featured on the programme remained in touch, via Facebook. Facebook can be a great way of keeping in touch with people, particularly for those less able to leave their home. It brings new social possibilities to those who had been isolated from society, isolated by their inability to get out. That’s not to say Facebook doesn’t have its risks though; it does. A conversation with a relative today demonstrated why. She had received a number of weird and unsolicited messages on the system, before working out how to restrict access to friends.
Social media can be a great liberator, and a great way of expanding your social life, if used well. I would always recommend researching any site before joining. See what others have said about it. Look for privacy hints, and start with a high privacy setting. If you’ve been invited to a party, you spend time thinking about who else will be there, how they will be dressed, what the party is likely to be like. It avoids the embarrassment of turning up to a jeans & T shirt affair in a posh frock. It is the same principle with social media. If you want to avoid being caught out, spend a little time to research, plan your approach, and lurk. Make sure you are happy before you start posting.
Social media is hugely social. But not everyone out there has the intention of being nice. You only open the door of your house to friends, colleagues or those you choose to invite. Keep the same principle on social media.