Personal risk and social media. Holiday reading

As social media relentlessly works to establish itself as a mainstay in all aspects of our communication, three consequences become increasingly evident: the constant remapping of social media to serve new purposes threatens to make digital competencies a requirement even for those who currently consider themselves safe from it; the more social media develops in complexity and utility, the more it reveals new associated dangers; there are tremendous intellectual and economic opportunities stemming from the need to address both these issues.

Social media is no longer the domain of early technology adopters. It is increasingly becoming imposed on underprepared individuals through a variety of mechanisms such as social pressure, professional requirement, instinctual need to participate, demands of competition and so on. It has become a very visible repository of huge quantities of data that everyone is trying to use in new ways and, hopefully, to monetize. The rewards of social media might lay in connectedness but its dangers are ever growing. How many job interviews will you lose because your employer is put off by your social media history? Will you ever be at risk of penalty over incriminating evidence you posted on social media? How many unlawful individuals are you providing on social media with updated clues to your location? How likely is it that you provoke outrage from expressing ill-advised views? The list of social media’s dangers is as big as that of its potential benefits.
Its increased cross-relevance also means that, if fifty years ago inadvertently offending someone would have gotten you nasty looks, now it might cost you your job or your personal safety. Nobody is perfectly educated or perfectly ethical: we are all products of our time and place, we grow and we make mistakes as we, hopefully, improve ourselves. Everything we share on social media can bring us social support or social sanction, depending on what it reveals about us. Misinterpreting one fact or expressing an unpopular or problematic opinion can have consequences that range from verbal abuse to threats which may or may not be carried out offline.
This is the subject matter of one of the books lined up for my holiday enjoyment: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. With by-lines that promise an engaging look into the consequences of public mistakes, I am hoping to get a better perspective on social media’s tendency to overreaction and mob-type attacks. More on the subject after my planned reading.

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