When I was a teenager, pagers were just slowly disappearing, paving the way to the emerging mobile phone trend.
Even then, the mobile phones were bulky and only had black and white displays unlike the “mini televisions” we all have today – something we call the smart phones.
Some of the more privileged youths got to exchange numbers with equally privileged friends that had mobile phones.
Nowadays, the trend is changing and more than likely, what is exchanged is one’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram handles.
Sounds innocent and convenient, right?
Well, only until we think a little deeper how youths get into trouble with the advent of the social media age.
1) Sharing Too Much Of Their Personal Lives
In the past, we meet and part after having exchanged phone numbers.
So what I know of the other person might be limited to just what transpired from the conversation we just had, what I already know of that person or what I might come to know through future interactions.
But now, people whom we just met and accepted into our social media circles have access to a whole lot of information about all of our whims and fancies as well as photographs that may not really be appropriate for everyone who just got to know us.
2) Getting Judged By Strangers/Near-strangers
By welcoming strangers or near-strangers into our social media circles, we are opening the doors to a lot of possible unwanted judging, assumptions and ill feelings.
Youths are particularly vulnerable to this.
Why do I say so? You see, we have all had (or maybe still have) our immature moments when we make silly statements fueled by impulse.
Just try to recall some remarks that are uncalled for we might have made, in the company of close friends or even to a bunch of kids we didn’t like.
But what happened then? Nothing much. It was gone with the wind.
3) Things Said Out Of Impulse Offends Someone
Today, youths have to deal with the unforgiving nature of social media. Statuses typed in the heat of the moment have the potential of going viral in a matter of minutes.
What follows can be a host of nasty comments directed at the poor kid.
Unfortunately, most of these people who write such nasty comments use a single status update to judge someone’s entire being – sometimes even their future.
We all know of such stories that get popular overnight.
For example, not too long ago there was this article about a social media posting that went viral. It was about a student who apparently boasted about her own PSLE results while putting down her other classmate who did not do as well as her.
But hey, that’s a kid who probably hasn’t matured enough.
She will most likely regret what she said few years down the road but she shouldn’t have to go through that much of hate-filled comments from strangers.
As you can see, things can really blow out of proportion if we do not have the maturity to conduct ourselves properly on social media.
While the kid can delete the post, there are other social media “policemen” (pun intended) who might screenshot the post and write something derogatory directed at the kid by using the kid’s full name.
If this troll decides to set the post as public and does not think of removing it, it will remain there, forever, with the poor kid’s name.
A simple Google search of the kid’s name might bring up such a bad memory, years down the road. This is something we didn’t have to deal with in the past.
4) Encouraging Unhealthy Attention-seeking Behavior
There’s also another downside to social media: youths vying for attention on social media and who decide anybody’s worth or a lack thereof merely based on the amount of likes, comments or attention they get on social media.
That’s equally, if not more dangerous because these people would do anything just to make themselves known even if it means making seditious comments.
If other youths follow suit thinking that it’s cool, our society would have one more social media ill to fight.
On the other hand, there are also a lot of positive articles, activism and movements that take place on social media, which might allow youths to see the bigger picture of the world around us.
Youths today are better informed than we were at their age.
Their source of world news is not limited to what’s presented on mainstream newspapers and channels. With social media, they are also exposed to a new brand of citizen journalists who can open their minds with an unbiased view of world events.
With such powerful capabilities, any medium would also be able to effect positive as well as negative consequences.
Rather than encouraging youths to stay away from social media, a better solution would be to educate them on proper social media etiquette and how they can better protect themselves.