The dangers of social media

Engr Sabir Hussain

We, the human beings are social animals by nature. One of our basic and primitive needs is to establish contacts with others. When the telegraph was invented in the 19th century it had changed everything and all the innovations in the field of communication served the same purpose to bring the people closer together. Similarly, now-a-day the state of communication has also been completely changed. Today, we record our life activities, interact with others and share our personal experiences online to the world without any care. It is a modern version of the old primitive need, but all this sharing comes at a personal risk. Social media is changing the way people interact and all that personal informations are shared with people we have never even met. 

Facebook is used to share informations of the upcoming events like weddings, parties and seminars etc. A girl in Germany used Facebook to invite her friends on her birthday. However, she forgot her privacy settings and the invitation went out to everyone on Facebook and then hundreds of teenagers gathered in front of her home. Despite the announcement by her family that the party is cancelled made no difference. Facebook had worked its magic in bringing the people together. But, one careless click on Facebook created a colossal problem for her and her family to cope with the situation. 

There is a global war over privacy and personal informations. According to a senior technology consultant of a reputable company for data protection of the world’s largest corporations and government departments against the cyber-attacks, Facebook is not free. We are paying to Facebook in the form of our data. Our personal informations like date of birth, email, likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies are the commodity for Facebook which is sold to others. For instance, once your data is uploaded on internet, you can’t permanently delete it and that is stored somewhere on internet. Computer hackers and fraudsters steal other people’s data to make money. 

In 2009, the Facebook page of the Communication Director of Microsoft was hacked when he was out of country and the hacker updated his status saying that he is in a big trouble and needs an urgent fund transfer. In response, his many close friends transferred enough money to that hacker through Western Union. 

Several pictures, videos and status updates on social media have ruined many lives and careers. In 2009, in British Colombia, Canada, the New Democratic Party (NDP) selected a fresh candidate, named Ray Lam for election to bring a change in the traditional politics. He was younger than average politicians and was ready for doing things in a new way. He used Facebook and Twitter to communicate with constituents where Facebook did play a vital role in his campaign, but the consequences were opposite to his imagination. His political career came to a sudden and astonishing end because some of his old controversial photos found on Facebook which his opponents leaked to media. Those pictures were taken years back and mostly forgotten, but they were saved in a quiet corner of Facebook. Finally, he had to step down and end the race quietly. 

Similarly, a 26 years old accountant, named Paul Chamber bought a ticket to fly from a small region of the UK to Belfast, Northern Ireland to meet his wife. 9 days before his flight the airport was shut down due to snowstorm. He decided to send the airport a friendly warning via his Twitter account saying that “you have got only one-week time to resolve your services otherwise I am going to blow up the airport”. Being the part of a public network his tweet reached the airport security staff as well and they took it seriously. And Chamber became the first person in the UK to be prosecuted under the terrorism law for his remarks made on Twitter and he was fined $1500. Moreover, he was banned from the same airport for life and fired from his job as well.

In short, personal informations are personal for some reasons, however, when they get shared on social media then they do not remain anymore personal. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, accepted in front of the Congress hearing that Facebook is being used for frauds, fake news, hate speech and election campaigns which is an uncontrollable mistake. So, let’s decide how to use social media in order to keep ourselves safe from its dangers?

The writer is a satellite engineer by profession. He did B.Sc Electrical Engineering (Telecom) from the COMSATS University, Lahore Campus and M.Phil in Space Science from the University of Panjab, Lahore. He can be contacted at:

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