Is it a beautiful day in your neighborhood? What would Mr. Rogers say?

Evelyn Cannata

In February 2004, a college student named Mark Zuckerberg launched a social media website to connect students. As the medium grew, it served as a way to communicate with friends and family, often far-flung. Facebook now has more than two billion monthly users and is a far cry from a safe, secure Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

We know the attributes of Facebook and other social media. You can promote your business, meet new people, and even have fun. Unfortunately, some users seek to take advantage of others who may still be naïve about social media pitfalls and outright dangers. Here are a few of them:

  • Oversharing: Do you want a stranger to know when you are out of town or where your children go to school? Beware. Oversharing can make you vulnerable to predators who can hack your account, set up fake accounts with your name and hijack your friends. It’s a path that has even been shown to lead to human trafficking. Know the difference between your private life and your social media profile.
  • Friend request: When someone requests to be your friend, and you have no  idea who this person is, it may not be legitimate. Google the person and you might be surprised. Accepting the request may turn out to be one of the more dangerous things you can do. While I agree with the benefits and have a social media presence, I counsel clients to be diligent and investigative. A stranger’s comment such as, “I think you are beautiful” can be a warning of cyber harassment and get out of hand. What you may think is an innocent back-and-forth conversation about how he might love to meet you, your radar should be up. You can decline and report the request. Otherwise, you are vulnerable to hackers who set up a fake account, post pictures of your friends, and convince you they are le Their goal is to amass dozens if not thousands of “friends” and target them with spam and links to malware. Only consider accepting a friend request if you and the requester have many mutual friends; if the person checks out on Google and other social sites, and if you carefully review their pages for content relevant to you.
  • Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking: Teens in particular are targets of cyberbullying and cyberstalking because since they don’t understand the dangers of posting even the most intimate details of their lives. It is essential to save any threats made, and tell your child, no matter how hard it might be, “do not respond.” Inform social media sites of instances of bullying or stalking. They do take this se
  • Fake news/sites: These sites promote false or outdated news as well as merchandise that you might never receive. I think we have all fallen victim to this. News: Google it. Merchandise: think twice, and if it looks or sounds too good to be true, well, you know the rest of it.
  • Selfitis: Do you know anyone who may be afflicted with the disease of selfitis? Yes, this is a new terminology but a legitimate label for those who use social media to manipulate and promote their self-image, as if they were celebrities. A tell-tale sign is the use of filters and other image manipulations. It is also the path to the pitfalls of oversharing and, ironically, usually reflects poorly on the poster. In a new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, psychologists found that people who post selfies are far more likely to be perceived negatively than people who post “posies”– photos of the poster taken by another person.
  • Likes: The like button was introduced in 2009 and is now considered an indicator of approval. Do you feel excited when your posts get a lot of likes? It’s just a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that produces the sensation of pleasure, and is not an indicator of your self-worth. Further, scientists used to think dopamine was responsible for pleasure in the brain, but now know that rather than creating pleasure, it makes us seek it. Be cautious about using social media to chase happy, dopamine-fueled feelings.

Have fun, be diligent, and try to stay clear of  controversial subject matter.

And remember, your social media engagement does not determine your value.


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