These days, most of us access social media via our smartphones or tablets. While this makes it very convenient to keep in touch, it also means that social media is always accessible. By design, social media platforms are intended to snare your attention, keep you online, and have you repeatedly checking your screen for updates. It’s how the companies make money.
This round-the-clock connectedness can result in various psychological and emotional issues in individuals and much like a gambling compulsion or an addiction to nicotine, alcohol, or drugs, social media is highly addictive. While there’s little research to establish the long-term consequences of social media use, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media use and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.
Everyone is different and there is no specific amount of time spent on social media, or the frequency you check for updates, or the number of posts you make that indicates your use is becoming unhealthy. However, a yardstick for assessing whether or not your social media use may be problematic is if it distracts you from work or school commitments, causes you to neglect face-to-face relationships, or leaves you feeling anxious, envious, angry, or depressed.
Oversharing of information on social media
Oversharing puts the focus on your personal life, practices and beliefs and you may not be ready for the possible fallout. In addition, to join these platforms, we voluntarily share very intimate information that we would normally never share with strangers. Aside from your birthdate and marital status, social media platforms trawl through what we share online and in the background and gather information on our hobbies, habits, browsing history, likes and dislikes, what we eat, where we live, work and holiday, and who our are friends are. Not only the platform has access to this information. If your profiles are set to ‘public’, you are sharing all this information with any stranger who might find your profiles online.
In reality, most of us have no idea of the size of our digital footprint and the amount of data available about us in cyberspace. We may feel outraged by this perceived intrusion of our privacy and bleat that we did not provide permission! The reality is that these platforms are gathering and sharing this information either with their own companies or other connected companies. It is right there in the terms and conditions on these sites and we are warned that they may trade our public profile data, especially for marketing purposes.
In an age of technological advancements and mass information, social media is a useful tool, but also poses a security threat to individual users if not used responsibly, with discretion and restraint for oversharing your information. Voluntarily disclosing information regarding our lives, our families and friends, or even the company we work for could ultimately expose us and/or the company to risk.