Social Media. A powerful tool of the 20th century that’s been serving the world with many good causes. A Social Media is a place or an application that enables one to communicate, share or find others with similar interests. It is ironic that those who are very much addicted to this Social Media are absolutely antisocial in real life. No offence. The development of this medium of communication actually started way before Facebook and hi5. How many of us still remember the ‘Snail Mail’? No, it is not another website. A Snail Mail is what we, the Email users call the standard letter posts. The earliest form of Postal Service dates back to 550 BC. A person carries a written letter from one to another. There, the birth of a Social Media, right?

Social media is not about the exploitation of technology but service to community.

-Simon Mainwaring

I am not really going to take you through the history of Social media here. I am about to open your eyes on what exactly this Social Media can do to one’s life. Just like any other inventions in this world, Social Media too has its ups and downs; in other words pros and cons. We have histories on people who have achieved big and made in to the millionaire’s club but also those who ended up in coffins or jail on the other side.

Is Social Media important?

You want me to be honest? No. Close this tab. Clear your history. Go out and face the real world.

Kidding. The need of a Social Media emerged when the Globalisation became the next big thing. Internet linked the continents in to one piece, connecting each and every points. That’s exactly why it is called the web. *Now You Know*. Let’s not deviate from the topic. The first recognisable Social Media site was called ‘Six Degrees’, created in 1997, enabled users to upload a profile and make friends with other users. 90’s kids, you can be proud about it, even though the creator of the site was a 70’s kid. And in 1999, the blogging became popular and so on.

Because of the Globalisation, businesses from all over the world found a solution to take their market to the next level. Yes, you guessed it right. A Global Market. Now, if the two businesses decided to communicate and to create a link between them, this Social Media became vital. The outcome? Millions of multinational companies.

Now in one’s personal life, Social Media can play a huge part, connecting them to their loved ones living across the seas, without a costly plane ticket or an over expensive phone call. Sorry, Vodafone. It is basically, you letting them know what you are up to. How your day was, what your ice-cream looked like and how your dog fetched the ball. If your family is away, it is a great way of keeping them updated and them being a part of it. But remember one thing. Also strangers know what your favourite drink is, where you hang out more often and even what your little kid looks like.

As I mentioned earlier, Social Media has its ups and downs. Just like it opens up a million ways to connect, communicate and find people with similar interests; it also opens up doors to offenders who look out for perfect opportunities. Even with great measures of security and privacy concerns, people are still facing a lot of threats online, in extreme cases also death.

Police figures show there were 4,908 reports in which Facebook and Twitter were a factor, compared with 556 in 2008. Social media-related crime reports up 780% in four years. According to The Guardian, UK.

Identity theft, Cyber Bullying and Scams are a few to be mentioned and a lot goes unreported. Despite of ways undertaken by organisations to avoid such crimes, yet there are several loop holes, creating chances.

Social Media is important to express ones self and thoughts but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Anything could happen nowadays.

Why do they choose Social Media as a threat?

Because it is easy to be someone so not you on these networks to lure a person on to an attacker with preferences. A survey from Harvard, stated that most scammers online, look out for targets with particular interests and preferences. They stalk a target for days before they make an actual move, studying them perfectly to swift them in to the trap. A UK newspaper once published an article about a 40 year old male sex offender who portrayed himself as a teenage girl on Facebook to target other teenage girls.

Even us, as a typical Internet user, forgetting about all the privacy concerns, fall in to such traps. A recent incident that I heard, actually shook me. A friend request on Social Media is the starter. If the profile looks genuine, we usually don’t think twice before accepting it. And a friendly chat turns in to an escort dream. Think about it, it matches your sexual preference, no strings attached and nothing physical. You might think it is safe to conduct a video call with a stranger.

Not after long, did he realise it was a threat and the whole video conversation has been recorded by the other party which is not an individual but a group of scammers. He was threatened to be exposed unless he pays them a not so easy amount of money. Now think, your whole dignity is in danger. You are a well respected person in the community and you can not afford such things to break you. You either pay the demand or worse, you commit suicide to avoid the consequences.

The scammers are always safe. They did not leave any piece of evidence for you to find out the real them. The profile itself is a theft from another person and they can be from anywhere in the world. You can’t even locate them using their IP address if they are smart enough to use high end encryptions and proxies.

How can I be safe?

Being safe also means being smart. We all know that the world is becoming smaller as the Social Media keeps growing.

You could even choke on a candy.

– Myself

Have you ever thought about how a social media survives? Pretty much every social media app are free of charge. So who is funding them? How do they pay for their ever expanding servers and web space? Fine. Advertisements. But here’s the trickiest part. Have you been visiting the Rolex website lately, checking on their latest models and their prices? And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere you see an advertisement on Facebook saying ‘Buy Cheap watches at WatchBay?’. Isn’t that creepy? How do they know?

All such websites have a ‘tracking’ system. You might have heard about a Cookie. A cookie on a web browser is used to save details about you on your computer for the web browser to remember your preferences on the next visit. A cookie could contain a saved autocomplete form data, history or settings. Such information can also contain your location. How else will they know that there are ‘single hot ladies in your area’? Google and Facebook have updated their privacy policy on selling out such information about their users to third party advertisers. Which we will never know, cause all we do is ‘Agree to terms and conditions’.

To safeguard yourself from serious threats, you should always privatise your Social Media on what strangers can get out of it. Your passwords must always be unpredictable and impossible to decrypt. I mean, I am not that good with numbers but if someone knows that your password is an eight char combination, then an attacker can actually find out your password within 3,025,989,069,143,040 guesses. You didn’t read that number. Not that impressive but It is a possibility. Limit the audience for certain posts. You don’t personally know all your Facebook friends or your twitter followers. There are certain things you post on Social Media that could trigger an attack.

Your personal details must stay with only you. Your phone number, your email, your family members and even your car registration. These information are the most vulnerable ones. Hiding such information from public interests, is the best remedy. Nobody would ever ask for your credit card details, never over a chat if they are genuine. There are chances that it could be an attacker who just got access to your loved one’s account and trying to get hold of your information.

If you find anyone suspicious on Social Media, blocking their access to your profiles is necessary. Cyber bullying is strictly intolerable. Which in most cases led to innocent suicides. Let a friend or a guardian know how you feel.

Social media is the ultimate equaliser. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.

-Emy Jo Martin

The weight of the Social Media is honestly underrated. Together we could make it a great place to share our thoughts and to build an amazing globalised community. Misusing such a weapon could cause disasters. Often google yourself, your name or your photos to see what strangers could find about you. And take necessary precautions.