The darker side of social media.

On the sunny side of social media sits smiley photos, slick networking, speedy communication, empathy and information about important campaigns.

But every ying has its yang, and this social force has a powerful dark side. We’ve seen trolling cause anxiety, depression, even suicides. We’ve seen sexy selfies being used as revenge porn. What about young Aussie girls posting photographic evidence of themselves breaking the law? Under blatant hashtags like #Aussieweed, #aussiestoner and #prettypothead you’ll find real names, real faces, all totally traceable and terrifyingly identifiable.

negative repercussions of social media
Just a girl. Smoking weed. Looking pretty. Image via Instagram @girlswhosmokeweed.

What was once a glittering information super highway has become a gritty fast-track to self-sabotage. Fall into these hashtags and you step into a smoky underworld where people boast about bongs, post about pot, tap about toking and write about weed. Talented teens and twentysomethings with bright futures ahead of them are burning bridges and watching their opportunities go up in flames all by willingly feeding a machine that can ruin their futures.

Twitter feeds of our rich and famous ‘role-models’ might suggest that we all live in a laid-back land where such substances are legalised – from Snoop Dogg’s golden hashleaf avatar to Rihanna who treated her 54.8M followers to photos of her posing with two huge cannabis joints while in Amsterdam. But we don’t, these are illegal drugs.

negative repercussions of social media
Rihanna with her signature blunt in hand. Image via Instagram @badgalriri.

Wrongly, the consequences are different for the untouchables who live in La La Land, protected by powerful agents and million dollar lawyers to defend them at any cost. Theirs is a land where the rules bend as much as bank accounts flex. What about Catherine from Cairns, Penny from Perth and Samantha from Sydney? What about the regular twentysomethings with more data than sense? They’re busy chasing likes and have forgotten that future employers have eyes. And access to Google.

Do we all need a reminder that posting on social media is like getting a tattoo? It’s permanent – and girls, that Google trail of disaster you’ve masterminded yourself will linger long after your smoke rings disappear.

 

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We’re living in a society where likes, favourites and followers are social currency. We’ve become obsessed with creating a social identity which is often entirely different to the real us that walks the actual planet. We take 55 photos to capture one good angle, add flattering filters, post and wait for a flurry of dazzling hearts to give us the thumbs up as we achieve a status of social acceptance. We seek approval based on numbers, not quality of character and have become so obsessed with doubling our followers that we’ve forgotten to consider the consequences of our click-bait.

Perhaps it’s time for a wake-up call that there will be as many dopes who ‘like’ people posing with bongs as there are social predators who ‘like’ girls posing in lingerie.

Managing this dark side of social media needs to be taught in schools, it’s as important as sex education. Taking precautions with social media has become as important as taking birth control and lack of education in both areas can seriously impact our long-term future.

We’re living in a society where BYOD (device) is as common as BYOG (grog) but we’re presuming that everyone has BYOCS (common sense).

We message on social media platforms as if they come with the same peace of mind as a sealed private letter delivered by a secretive carrier pigeon. Yet, our messages are not safe. What we write becomes public property and if you own a company phone, everything you post from it could be seen by your employer.

Just last week, a landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) essentially means employers can legally ‘snoop’ on private Facebook, WhatsApp and email messages. A Romanian engineer sued after being sacked for sending messages during work hours on a work device. The ECHR sided with his employer and found that he had breached company policy and bosses should be able to check what their employees are doing during working hours. Cue: horror, outrage and paranoia. Newsflash: this is reality.

negative repercussions of social media
If you’re thinking about logging into Facebook whilst at work, perhaps think again. Image via Instagram @gibbonsdigital.

We have to let go of this false sense of security that just because we clutch our phones in our hands and sleep with them next to our pillows that they are to be trusted. We are sleeping with the digital devil who has snuck into our lives and hijacked our privacy. We play at our own peril, post at our own risk and dice with our own destiny.

We have to wake up, pull ourselves out of our sweet deluded slumber of digital denial and snap back into reality before we live to regret it.

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