Social-You-and-Me-A Problem of Privacy

Article by Mary L. Holden

Share. It’s an important word in any language. Sharing with others is humanity’s operating system. Humanity’s—and the internet’s—evolution requires constant development of sharing skills. Neanderthals shared sounds that turned meanings into words. Medieval travelers shared messages by handwritten or printed papers. Victorians shared via newspapers, radios, telephones, and movie screens. Mid-20th century families and friends shared leisure time viewing TV programs on plugged-in screens. In the 1980s, technology enabled intimate ways to share personal information in messages, images, and videos on personal computers. And then…you were born. You never knew a world without computer-based technologies. Social media is your second nature…after the desire to share. Social Us Social sharing in 2021 impacts everyone in unique ways. Choices made by participants on social media platforms create portions of their personal realities. Options available on the internet are unprecedented and they keep expanding. Opportunities abound, yet disappointments are abundant. But people are sharing like never before in history. You’re a sharer—one of billions. To be good at sharing, know your truths as you navigate the trails, aisles, and grooves of social media. Answer these questions to clarify your own truths: When did you first use computer-based technology? What were your first experiences with software? How often do you use the internet actively (as informant) and passively (as observer)? Where is your personal technology footprint? Who taught you about privacy? It may take as long to answer these questions as it takes to read this article. By doing both, your understanding of and appreciation for social media will increase, and likely in ways you’ll want to…share with others. “Share” History Before the Information Age, relationships operated with a different balance of power based on wider spaces and slower MARY L. HOLDEN The World’s Population: 7.9 billion people People Who Use the Internet: 4.7 billion The Top Five Social Media Sites (in millions): Facebook (2,740) YouTube (2,291) WhatsApp (2,000) Facebook Messenger (1,300) Instagram (1,221) timing. Wider physical spaces to navigate while accomplishing tasks meant people got to experience more suspense, more “wondering.” The longer it took to get things done meant people had to practice tolerance and patience. For example, job searches depended on newspaper ads, with resumes in envelopes—not emails. Non-emergency medicine was practiced by experts wearing stethoscopes—not mothers Googling WebMD. Romance involved dates arranged by people—not algorithms; chemistry engaged five senses—not just a single swipe by a finger. Celebrations and memorials took place in person—not on collectivized individual screens like Facebook Live or Zoom. Suspense, tolerance, and patience are not as prevalent in 2021. The internet’s augmentation of rapid human interaction keeps changing balances of power—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Drastic changes in technology occurred over two generations. In 1970, a room-sized mainframe computer cost a company $4.6 million. By 1982 the smaller IBM PC model 5150 cost businesses $1,565. Wealthy Americans in 1990 paid $1,800 for the IBM PS/1 model 2011, put it on a desk, used it for emails and edutained their kids with New MathBlaster Plus™. In 2021, a palm-sized tablet costs around $100. Computer technology at the individual, desk-and-palm-sized scale allowed the first generation of people to collect, collate, curate, communicate—and share en masse. Social media was hatched inside the personal computers. The term “social media” was likely first spoken in the early 1990s by people in Silicon Valley when AOL’s Instant Messenger was in research and development. The first social media platform,, debuted in 1997 (as did AOL Instant Messenger), but the mother of social media, Facebook, was still 14 years in the future. Quantity, Quality, Quadrants The biggest impact on humans by the internet and social media is in the amount of information available to process by: The World’s Population: 7.9 billion people People Who Use the Internet: 4.7 billion The Top Five Social Media Sites (in millions): Facebook (2,740) YouTube (2,291) WhatsApp (2,000) Facebook Messenger (1,300) Instagram (1,221) ….and The Number of Social Media Sites Worldwide: Over 112 Beyond these numbers, the most important statistic is you. You know the ways you connect via technology. You define the internet. You measure the value of your social media presence. Please keep in mind those people unable to engage in sharing through technology because their lifestyles, health, infrastructure, education level, economic status, race, ethnicity, political strictures, and cultural values prevent it. Think about the ways you share in ways that they cannot. In 2021, social media is being most used on these platforms: Social networking—Facebook and LinkedIn Blogging—WordPress, Medium Microblogging—Twitter, Tumblr Photo sharing/vlogging—Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest Video sharing—YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook Live Seven components define social media participation: (1) name identity; (2) ability to communicate online; (3) ability to up/download information; (4) presence (amount of time spent); (5) relationship statistics (friends, followers, readers, views); (6) group memberships; and, most important, (7) reputation. Reputation—it’s the key that opens the quality of your social media spaces. Two aspects of reputation are true. When person-to-person connection enables positive results, happy emotions make it easy to celebrate the growth that occurs. When a connection is negative, sadness and anger polish the experience to give it depth and make way for improvement. Your social media reputation is multilayered; the most important layers are your levels of self-respect and self-regulation, the courtesy and gratitude you display, your ability to think critically and act with compassion. Social Messyness Society often operates with much judgment and less love. But—within judgment is the potential to forge good alignments. Within love are also its opposites. Learning to live between similarities and differences and positives and negatives in life is the best of all unseen values in the way electricity connects everyone together—and everyone to themselves—in sharing. What about obsessive sharing and dependence on social media? Is it an addiction? Too much of anything is never good, but ‘addiction’ is an incorrect word for overuse of social media. Addiction references substances that are physically harmful: tobacco, grain alcohol, painkillers, sedatives, stimulants, psychoactive drugs, pornography, foods, and/or inhalants. Addiction is when you continue to do what causes harm— and it requires rehabilitation. Obsession with or compulsion to overuse social media is a disorder to resolve with appropriate therapy. Social media is not a solid substance. It’s time, electricity, connection to others. On average, people across the world spend 145 minutes per day (2 hours, 25 minutes) connected through social media. It’s likely to increase, but for now, use it as a personal measure. You can spend a disproportionate amount of time posting, commenting, blogging, viewing, friending, and liking, but it’s also possible to push away, to think of and tend to non-screen activities in your immediate environment. Too much time alone—while socializing on social media—necessitates self-recognition and recalibration, not punishment or self-reproach. Evaluate how to manage your needs for human connection outside the screen. The most negative aspects of social media are in its temptations—curing loneliness, distraction, easing fear of missing out. Its most negative effect is exacerbation of existing problems. When present in a person, use of social media feeds depression, fuels anxiety, furthers narcissism, and increases feelings of inadequacy. Social media also enables antisocial behaviors: bullying and catfishing. Have you been victimized…yet? Mindful Media The internet is an amazing energy vortex. Understand the limits of your knowledge of it, and limit your exposure to what’s unknown. Assume some jeopardy is inherent in social media participation. The U.S. Constitution’s first amendment guarantees citizens freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. With this freedom comes responsibility to do no harm. Social media participation requires—demands—self-responsibility. You have freedom to create accounts and post media. Your choice to post information and opinions is only as free as the platform’s owners/managers allow. Self-manage your right to privacy. Do not breach it by revealing deep personal information. Use good judgment and intuition, then invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to safeguard Wi-Fi connections, keep browsing history private, hide locations, and prevent identity theft. People park their essences on social media to play, inform, and be informed. The internet is a place for creating and navigating social change that takes into account the good, neutral, and evil, allowing them to co-exist in the triality that all humanity experiences. Social media is supported by all who share, and it’s likely to never go away. Enjoy it…but take care not to share too much.