The use of social network sites has increased exponentially and is a global phenomenon. Online social network sites provide several benefits. For example, people can interact with others, as if they were close friends. In addition, social network sites help people connect with others who have the same interests; people can share news, photographs, and videos with other online members. According to a Nielsen Online report, by the end of 2008, 66. 8 percent of Internet users around the world had visited social network sites that year, whereas, only 65. 1 percent had gone online to access email. Gale) Social networks provide the opportunity for an advanced level of communication and functionality. However, social networks also have serious disadvantages, such as violation of confidentiality and privacy, unforeseen consequences, and potential threat to personal safety. Today, communication on the Internet has become increasingly popular. Millions of people around the world use websites, such as Myspace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. People now have benefits of these websites, including significantly advanced communication and functionality which have never been seen or imagined before.
For instance, one advantage is that today’s doctors are communicating with their patients by using social media. Before social media became a vital form of communication, doctors and patients only could connect to each other by using telephone, otherwise, patients had to visit the doctor’s office which takes time and money as well. “About 20 percent of patients already use social media to glean healthcare information, according to an April survey by the National Research Corporation, a healthcare research firm based in Lincoln, Neb”. Haupt) However, there are also some weak points of communicating through using social media between patients and physicians. Sometimes, the information that gets passed along is not always accurate because anyone can post. Moreover, since some doctors answer medical questions through social media, privacy becomes a concern. If patients provide details about a diagnosis or treatment, the doctor might accidentally reveal patients’ identity. To maintain confidentiality, personal questions should still be handled through doctor’s office visits or phone calls.
Most people who use social media are not aware of the potential violation of their privacy and unforeseen consequences. Websites may give people a false impression of being anonymous. In fact, many people post embarrassing and unethical content in text, photos, and videos. Because the Internet is a text-centered telecommunication, people may lose their ethics and responsibility. In actuality, serious consequences have occurred to people whose online behavior has been made public. “Students have been expelled from high schools and colleges.
Students have been denied acceptances to intern programs, admission to independent high schools, colleges, and jobs. Students, and their parents, have been sued for insult and defamation of character”. (Fodeman, Monroe) These instances occurred all because of the content people have posted in their social network accounts. Furthermore, according to Dr. Nora Barnes, Director for the Center of Marketing Research at UMASS Darmouth, more than 20% of colleges and universities search social networks for their admission candidates. Fodeman, Monroe) Finally, people’s privacy may be violated by police, and other government agencies that have access to Facebook pages. In addition, Facebook itself sells their members’ information to third party marketers willing to pay the fees. As a result, people should seriously be conscious of their privacy concerns and perceive that other people are trolling their accounts. Finally, safety has also become an issue for social network members. Safety concerns include ads, fake websites, identity theft and stalkers. Online social networks generate revenues through advertising.
Companies collect information from online social network sites. Based on this data, companies advertise and create a profile page, inviting members to join or become fans. Companies may use these pages to promote events, such as concerts, free product giveaways, special sales, and other activities. In fact, there are frequent scams targeting people in their social networks, especially Facebook and My Space. Over the last few years, more than 14,000 users were damaged by fake MySpace pages into visiting music web sites to purchase music for $2-3 per album.
Instead of getting music, the site charged $300-600 to their credit cards. (Fodeman, Monroe) Other major safety concerns include cybercriminals, and stalking. People can easily gain access to sensitive information from online social networks, making users in danger to identity theft and other crimes. “Computer security firm Sophos reported in February 2010 that there had been an “alarming” increase in spammers and hackers using online social network sites to find potential victims”. Gale) The amount of receiving spam and sending viruses, worms, or other malicious software is increasing. Besides, stalkers can use networks to keep track of their victims’ activities. Therefore, online users should be cautious when they communicate with strangers online. In fact, it is very easy for people to pretend to be someone who they are not. It is not mandatory for people to reveal their true identity online. As a result, users must be careful about meeting new online friends in person and should never arrange a meeting unless it is in a public place and others know about it.
In conclusion, social networks provide an advanced level of communication and functionality. On one hand, by communication online, doctors and patients may save time and money. On the other hand, there are serious disadvantages to using social networks. These disadvantages include a potential violation of privacy and confidentiality. There may be unforeseen consequences to posting text, photos and videos online. For example, students may be expelled from school. Companies collect data from social networks to advertise online.
Individual users may not be able to distinguish fake websites. Also, the potential harm of identity theft is serious. Furthermore, stalkers and impostors find it easy to create false identities online. Therefore, personal safety is a major concern for online users. There are several other implications for harmful consequences of social networks. One such example that may be explored is global safety. For instance, Wikileaks posed a danger to political international relations.
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