Today, the advancement of technology has brought about many changes to our way of living, one of them being the use of social media. Social media platforms such as blogs and social networking websites are becoming almost necessities in our daily lives. These platforms have definitely brought us conveniences such as easier communication with family and friends anywhere with the use of computers or smartphones. However, that is not to say they are without their pitfalls. Problems such as loss of privacy, addiction and cyberbullying are some of the pitfalls that social media has brought to us (Hendricks, 2014). In this essay, I will discuss the issue of the loss in privacy due to the use of social media in the United States of America, evaluate solutions that are implemented, as well as provide suggestions to curb this problem.

Not everyone who uses social media is technologically-savvy enough to have a thorough understanding on its features and functionalities (Bilton, 2010). There is an increasing number of older people on Facebook in America, as its user-friendly nature allows people to do what they want with ease (Taylor, 2015). Features such as ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘post’ are easy to understand even for people who do not have a great understanding onprep computers. However, what they have no idea of is who can access the information they post, or pictures they ‘tag’. Social media users often put too much personal information online, and this leads to security concerns such as fraud and identity theft. In an incident in America several years ago, a woman posted on her Facebook profile that she was going on vacation, and one of her Facebook ‘friends’ broke into her house as he knew she would be away (MailOnline, 2014).  From this example we can see how serious the problem of privacy loss can be. Also, people tend to be more insensitive and rude online, and, coupled with the freedom of speech in America, they are much less restrictive over what they say on social media, which leads to others being offended by them (Goldsmith, 2013). However, the real concern is that only a very small number, about nine percent of teenage Facebook users in America, are actually concerned about third-party access to their information, and this statistic is alarming (Korbey, 2013).

One of the existing solutions to restrict what personal information third parties can access to is the Online Reputation Management service. These services are provided by companies to remove personal information from the Internet (Lock, 2013). It is true that if people do not want their information to be on the Internet, they can simply choose not to post them, but having an online presence is becoming a necessity or job seekers, as most employers tend to research on people online after they have interviewed them (Valentinelli, 2010). This solution works in the sense that it indeed protects people’s information from being obtained and used maliciously. However, it does not solve the root of the problem. For it to work, people have to first realise the dangers of leaking their personal information online, then will they seek to utilise this Online Reputation Management service. Not only that, one has to pay regular fees, which can cost from two hundred and fifty dollars a month for the service to take effect, making it a rather costly solution (Lock, 2013).

Another existing solution to prevent teenagers from placing too much personal information on the social media platforms is through the help of schools. Many schools in USA have undertaken the responsibility of controlling what their students put up online. Schools have notified parents when their child places too much personal information on the Internet, while some schools have banned blogs and requested students to remove their information from the network. In other cases, schools have even disallowed students to register for social media platforms with school email addresses (Barnes, 2006). This solution serves as a blanket rule by deciding for these students what should and should not be placed online. However, it does not allow them to know the rationale and importance behind such actions. Moreover, teenagers in their rebellious phases will not only be unappreciative of these methods, they may instead go against the rules and vent their anger online.

A possible solution is for schools to include the teaching of the importance of protecting one’s information on social media platforms in their current lesson plan. Schools should also encourage parents to play a part in supervising their children’s usage of social media. While children have been taught to protect themselves from danger, such as not talking to strangers, these teachings are implemented before the widespread usage of the Internet. Therefore, as social media platforms become more prominent, the knowledge to deal with the dangers of them should come together as well. As statistics have shown that only a small percentage of teenagers are concerned about third-party access to their information, it is important to let them know what should and should not be done when using social media platforms (Korbey, 2013). Since majority of the younger generation are technologically-savvy, it is right to focus on telling them ‘why’ instead of how to do it, and this is best conveyed to them by their teachers and parents.

In conclusion, the problem of loss in privacy due to the use of social media is a cause for concern and should not be taken trivially. Most importantly, people have to be aware of this issue and make an effort to safeguard their privacy. Then, with the right implementations, the effects of it will be minimised.

References

Barnes, S. (2006, August 15). A Privacy Paradox: Social Networking in the United States. First Monday. Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/article/view/1394/1312#b5

Bilton, N. (2010, May 12). Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/technology/personaltech/13basics.html

Goldsmith, B. (2013, April 10). Friendships cut short on social media as people get ruder. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/11/socialmedia-behaviour-survey-idUSL5N0CX2BQ20130411

Hendricks, D. (2014, May 22). How Social Networking is Quietly Changing Our Lives. Inquisitr. Retrieved from http://www.inquisitr.com/1262910/how-social-networking-is-quietly-changing-our-lives/

Korbey, H. (2013, May 22). What Teens Feel About Privacy and Social Media. MindShift KQED. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/05/what-teens-feel-about-privacy-and-social-media/

Lock, C. (2013, July 26). Is Online Reputation Management Worth The Money? Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/07/26/is-online-reputation-management-worth-the-money/

Taylor, J. (2015, September 01). Facebook’s Growth Grinds to a Halt as Elderly Show Up in Droves. Observer. Retrieved from http://observer.com/2015/01/facebooks-growth-grinds-to-a-halt-as-elderly-show-up-in-droves/

Valentinelli, M. (2010, June 07). Social Media and Your (Lack of) Privacy. SFWA. Retrieved from http://www.sfwa.org/2010/06/social-media-and-your-lack-of-privacy/

Woman’s home burgled by Facebook ‘friend’ after she posted on her profile that she was going on vacation (2014, March 28). Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2591886/Womans-family-home-burgled-Facebook-friend-posted-profile-going-vacation.html

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