Deciding the Future Role of Social Media

For most college-aged students, there was never such a thing as “social media” when they were growing up. It wasn’t until the rise of Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and now countless other major Internet outlets that the term “social media” skyrocketed to the every day use it has now.

Social media has allowed the technology of our generation to be incomparable to anything else that has preceded it, and new advances are being made every single day. Social media is beautiful and innovative; there are now so many different venues for people to express their thoughts, share their ideas, and communicate efficiently and effectively just by clicking away at their keyboard or their smartphone.

But let’s be realistic: it’s 2013, and the dangers of social media are well aware to all of us by now. When I was growing up, I received the stereotypical sex education talks, complete with not talking to strangers and always being aware of my surroundings. For adolescents younger than myself, the ones who have grown up side-by-side with the Internet and social media, they will have (hopefully) received talks similar to mine, but with a twist. Now, in addition to everything we had to previously be cautious about, there is the Internet to worry about.

Social Media
We’re surrounded by social media daily. | Photo courtesy of Jason A. Howie via Flickr Commons

Now, we have to worry about what personal information we disclose on the Internet, what ideas we share, and who we talk to. Previous dangers are now magnified. We think of social media as being a Mecca for freedom, when in reality, it’s a vast space that requires careful censorship. The Internet promotes pseudo-anonymity and breeds conformity; it comes off as a place where we can all do what we want without suffering any consequences.

By now, we know that this assumption is wrong. While social media may promote feelings of “safety” when one is engaging in everything through a computer, it is not a private space–it’s shared by all.

With social media hotspots like Facebook and Twitter being on display to people from all over the Internet, is anything really hidden that is posted?

This question has arisen especially lately when over the past several weeks, the Steubenville Rape trial caught the attention of people from all of the United States. Although the specific rape incident involving two high school boys from Steubenville, Ohio happened in August 2012, the case has received such widespread attention due to the fact that a good portion of the evidence resided on social media and through text messages.

Following the incident, pictures and videos were uploaded to Facebook and YouTube showing the two boys holding the victim by her arms and legs while she is seemingly unconscious from drinking. During one of the videos, the victim is described as being “deader than a doornail.” Texts were exchanged between all parties, specifically between the victim and a friend, since she had no recollection of the night before and believed she had been drugged.

The two boys, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who were accused of rape, were found guilty.

What will a case like the Steubenville rape incident serve for the future of not only what discretion is used when it comes to what people post on social media and send over text messages, but also the rise of using social media as evidence in trials? The future of both is unknown, but what is certain is that while advances in social media, the Internet, and technology are unprecedented, so are their hazardous ramifications.

Aria Ruggiero

Aria is a Junior in CAS studying Psychology. She enjoys writing and photographing for the Quad, as well as having an unhealthy obsession with guacamole, blazers, and the Yankees.

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