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Imagine one day posting a photo on Snapchat at a party, like many other teenagers do.  You’re taking the picture outside of your house, and soon after, ads for businesses in your area begin to pop up.

Even though you didn’t know it, an identity theft crime ring also just took your address.  Then you go and apply for a job, and you don’t understand why you were almost immediately refused the job.  A day later, you’re arrested by the police and interrogated.  Eventually, you learn this was all tied back to that Snapchat post, your GPS coordinates were tied to the photo, the friend you took the picture with was drinking, and one of the people at the party was a wanted drug dealer.

While this is a fictional anecdote, these are some of the potential dangers that come from social media use.

One of the things that makes this such an important issue is how widespread social media use is.  On average, an American spends 1 hour and 40 minutes on social media, and also has, on average, 5 accounts according to The Telegraph.* That’s a lot of time spent online, and most people don’t have filters on what they put out there.  This isn’t any different for teenagers, and what you post, even on ‘private’ and ‘safe’ apps like Snapchat.

 

All companies must store your data and what you post in accordance with the Patriot Act. But it isn’t just the FBI who accesses this information.

Sometimes a tech savvy member of the public can get into your social media history, which can mean bad things for both your career and personal life.  With tools such as the Snapchat.db (a SQL database dedicated to putting everyone’s Snapchat posts on the Internet), for better or worse, they can take your information and use it to either evaluate or exploit you.

Another big problem with privacy can be fixed yourself, as plenty of people’s profiles are public and can be viewed by anyone.  Many Facebook profiles are also public, meaning that anyone can view what is posted. Most importantly, your career prospects can also be harmed by posts.

To elaborate on the career aspect of the issue, when you apply for a job, many companies use their IT guys as P.I.s.  They will assign people to hunt down your information and deliver it to HR. Truly anonymous accounts such as Reddit accounts or 4chan posts are harder to pin down, but mainstream social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat often contain your real name.  This could mean your reputation will suffer with employers if you don’t keep it clean.

Some governments in Europe are also cracking down on ‘hate speech’ online.  These are posts that could be interpreted as hateful or are hateful.  Take the story of the YouTuber, ‘Count Dankula’, who is a Scottish man who uploaded comedic videos.  One day, he was talking about how his girlfriend apparently was giving to much attention to her dog.  He trained the dog to get up on its legs and do a Nazi salute whenever it was told certain words.

Long story short, police arrested him and charged him with Hate Speech (a crime in the UK).  He was sentenced and sent to prison for what he did. That simple, harmless action gave him a ‘Hate Speech’ conviction, something employers won’t take kindly.

There are countless stories like this, where people who post offensive jokes online or post pictures of themselves drinking have a harder time getting a stable, well-paying job.

The moral of the story is to think before you post. If not for the well being of others, than for the well being of yourself.  Social media as a tool has greatly assisted and handicapped our society, but the keyword in there is tool.  If you don’t use the tool responsibly, you could wind up in a lot of trouble.

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