Do We Use Social Media or Does Social Media Use Us?

image by Blogpreneur via Flckr

BY MATT CELMER

Social media is one of the biggest consumers of people’s time and energy in the 21st century. With trending news, photos and entertaining videos all accessible by the press of a button, it is easy to see why social media has become so popular, with a large increase in the number of users over the past few years. From just 2008-2017, the percent of the U.S. population with at least one social media profile increased from 24% to 81%.

Similar to how there is a multitude of news sources for the public to choose from, there are dozens of social media platforms available. For example,  Facebook, Youtube and Whatsapp all have monthly users counts in the billions. People enjoy using these sites because they can connect with friends, watch funny clips, or stay up to date on current news.

In order to use these various social media sites, you have to put in your personal information such as your name and email. We trust companies not to use all this personal information, yet recently it was discovered that Facebook sold personal information about more than 50 million of its users to a data mining and analysis company called Cambridge Analytica.

This brings up questions about the trustworthiness of the social media giants. Zoe Bates, a Canton High junior, uses “Instagram because it shows a vast amount of different viewpoints on various topics and it allows you to connect with your friends.” When asked about whether or not she trusted Instagram to not sell off her personal information, she stated that, “Big social media companies are out for publicity and money, and don’t really care about the security of their users.” The fact that Instagram is owned by Facebook could put its users and their information at a higher risk, as Facebook was recently exposed for selling people’s personal data. However, even though Bates feels that her personal information is not 100% safe, it does not stop her from using Instagram as its many benefits outweigh its cons.   

Other students concur with Bates about social media and their personal information. Sara Melendez, a Canton High School senior, uses “Snapchat the most frequently, as it allows you to quickly communicate with friends, and see trending news and stories as they develop.” Melendez does not trust Snapchat to use her personal information, as companies have “a lot of power as they have everybody’s names, emails, passwords and other information, and it is easy for them to abuse their power.” Even though she does not trust Snapchat to withhold her personal information form companies such as Cambridge Analytica, she, like Bates, still frequently uses Snapchat as its combination of quick communication and easy access to news sites is “too good to pass up.”

Although there is a lack of trust between social media companies and those that browse social media websites, most people have continued to actively participate in social media interactions. It seems, at least for most users, the allure of instant communication and entertainment is worth the privacy trade off.