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Unveiling the Dark Side of Social Media: Data Privacy, Psychological Impacts, and Corporate Profiteering

Social media is an ever present part of modern society. We have a habit of sharing photos of our food, getting into political debates, and telling the world the details of our daily lives online. Services like Facebook, TikTok, X, and Instagram allow us to share information about our lives with friends and loved ones in real time regardless of physical distance. It has allowed us to quickly and efficiently keep people in our social circles up to date about what's going on in our lives and can be a great tool to keep in touch with friends across the world, but it does also come at a dark and unfortunate cost.

Many people don't give much thought to what they post online, a quick check in at that great Chinese restaurant, a selfie at the beach, a quick post about finally getting that promotion at work, these are common place ways we share our lives with the world. While this can be a great and useful tool, there are some downsides that we often forget to think about. The biggest concern with social media is data privacy. While this is constantly in the news with talks of regulation and tools to keep our accounts safe, many people frequently forget that they may be their own worst enemy when it comes to keeping their privacy secure.

As any experience cybersecurity expert will tell you, no matter how advanced and secure the tools, people are always the biggest risk to security, and this is true in social media as well. Oversharing your life online may pose risks that are easy to miss. That list post asking you to name your first pet, your mothers maiden name, the first street you lived on, your childhood best friend, and more may seem like an innocent and fun way to tell the world about yourself, but if you take a closer look you may realize you have seen these questions somewhere else. This information is frequently used as security questions for your bank account, mortgage lender, and more to reset your password, and by sharing that post, anyone with access could gain access to any account you may have used that information as a security question on.

By willingly sharing too much information you may be giving out all the information someone needs to steal your identity, harass you and your family, or even break into your home unopposed. That post you made about your weekend getaway to the mountains may let a would be burglar know that no one will be home for several days allowing them to plan to burglarize your home. While these are the worst case scenarios, it is always wise to be aware of the possibilities, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Just be aware of the possibilities when posting intimate details about your life on public websites for the world to see.

As you can see, there are many outside threats to your information posted on social media, but what about from the companies running social media themselves? Have you ever wondered how they have such huge profit margins, giant work forces, and all on a free service? A common quote attributed to this is "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product" which was ironically posted on social media in 2010. Companies like Meta, X, and TikTok make their money by selling your information to advertisers and data brokers. Even if you don't have a social media account, they are collecting data about you from other sources. While we wont get into the details of shadow profiles here, you can find an excellent article on these shady profiles from How-To Geek.

The last point to consider is the psychological impacts of social media. There are many scientific studies on this topic and the results can be scary. Social media is proven to be addictive, triggering the brains reward response when we get likes and shares on our posts, and alternatively can make us feel badly when we don't get the response we desire. You can read this King University study on this topic for more detailed information about the neurological impacts. There is also the societal and psychological impacts of echo chambers created where members can find themselves only hearing opinions that match their own, leading to a decrease in the discourse necessary to critical thinking.

As you can see social media definitely has some terrifying aspects to it. As with anything, a good tool is only as good as the one who wields it, and to many the major players who are controlling social media are utilizing their power in ways that may not be in your best interest. You do not need to cut yourself off from the social media, but simply be smart in how you use it to protect yourself from those who would use that information against you. If you need more personalized information on how to protect yourself, your family, and your business, reach out to All American Cyber today.

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