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The dark side of social media

In our modern society, social media has become an everyday element of our lives. It is a quick and easy way to get in touch with people all around the world, to find lost friends and family and even make new ones. Businesses now utilise social media to market their business and grow their network into something hugely successful. Even simply used for our personal entertainment, it is all good fun and games to keep connected, find new friends and business connections but some people in the world are not like the rest of us, they belong to the dark side of social media.

Social media allows everyone to connect to everyone else, no matter where they are in the world, so long as they are on the same network and let’s face it, practically everyone who has an internet connection in their home has at least one social media account. However, is that always a good thing? For those on the dark side of social media it is a huge gateway for them to expand their target base. Those with a malicious mindset used to only be able to attack those that they knew and in a much more direct way – this wasn’t something that happened often, or at least as often as it can today, but now it is completely different as the fear factor has almost completely vanished; people can act how they please upon the internet, knowing that accountability may not lead back to them (fake accounts/names). Also, now they have a wider base, there are many more people to attack time and time again. For example, if a homophobe in the past wanted to attack homosexuals they would have to do so in their local area and get caught sooner rather than later, but now with the internet and the use of social media, they can now attack homosexuals all around the world. Most of the times the attacks don’t even have to be direct to one person; just a post upon social media where everyone can see it can attack so many people all at once.

People don’t seem to realise that as soon as they click ‘send’, whatever it may be is out there and cannot be taken back. Most will retort with ‘it can be deleted or taken down by the social media platform’ but as soon as that one thing is sent, it is seen, even if you do not realise it. All it takes is one person to send it to more and more people; your network of people might not be that big but they are connected to friends, and friends of friends and beyond. We have all heard about celebrity sex tapes and intimate photographs going public with everyone around the world able to see them, comment on them and of course share them on again. Just imagine that happening to a rumour about your or a harsh word about a group of people; it will grow and only spiral into more and more people’s lives.  One other thing that people don’t seem to realise is that the laws still apply even when you are online and only know/talk to the people online.

Those that sit behind their computer and a social network profile dabbling in the dark side of social media believe that it can give them some sort of anonymity and they can therefore do whatever they please to whoever they please.  No one can see them behind the screen so they feel safe to say or do whatever they wish to do without fear of a true consequence. They could constantly torment one person for days, weeks or even months but as soon as they log off of the network, it is all forgotten and they can carry on with their lives without a worry about just what they have said or done. However, the same is not said for the victim, their life is seriously affected by what has gone on and the fear of it continually happening. We have heard some stories in the news, both past and present, about people having to leave their social media accounts because they have been attacked time and time again or simply had hurtful messages sent to them. Someone should not have to delete their social media in order to avoid the darker side of it, but this is what it has come to. We have to take the good with the bad but the bad is slowly growing in numbers and problems.

The most severe cases that have been in the news is that social media is being used for criminal activities, more and more. Back in 2011 – quite a few years I know – social media was used to plot the murder of a young girl by her jilted ex. He even asked his friends, via social networks, about the task and told them in some detail just what he would do yet still they believed that it was nothing to be worried about – believing that nothing would come from their actions. In fact some of the supported his actions without truly understanding the consequences of what they were saying.

This is one of the biggest problems with the dark side of social media; everyone seems to lose their ability to think independently. We are no longer being ourselves upon social media, we much more prefer to be a sheep amongst all the other sheep; one giant flock all saying the same, all thinking the same, all acting the same. People will not stand out from the crowd, they are much more likely to say nothing or join in than to argue against what is being said. This can start within a simple friend group, with people trying their best to stay within the group so therefore agreeing and supporting what is posted, even if somewhere inside they don’t believe it. Nevertheless, once this form of conformity is established it is only a matter of time until some people to conform to the masses. It can start slowly, with a small agreement on a public post now and then, building with time. Not having done so myself I can only speculate as to why some people conform this greatly upon social media, so much so that they will join in on an attack or a vicious troll.

My speculation is that they do not wish to feel alone or isolated from the social media group, which if we are truthful, slowly becomes our whole world. We are used to peer pressure in our normal lives, through school it was a common thing that we were warned against, however, on social media platforms there are so many more people that can influence the users and how they think, feel and act about certain things in life. The idea of commenting upon a post with a completely different view from everyone else can be unbelievably daunting and most will not go against the masses, even if to agree with them will compromise them morally. It is sad really.

Social media is a huge aspect of our lives, connecting us to people all around the world, allowing us to grow as people and see other cultures, but it is not all rainbows and sunshine, the dark side is strong and unfortunately is only growing stronger. The ability to connect with so many people, creates more targets and more destructive conformity and we must fight back with all the positivity we have.

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