Is Social Media Stealing Your Life Away?

Posted on March 27th 2014

Is Social Media Stealing Your Life Away?

You wouldn’t spend time with a friend who steals your most valuable possessions, would you? What about a friend who consistently borrows your things and never gave them back? Likely you wouldn’t. Yet, according to Business Insider, you’re spending about 37 minutes a day with social media — a confidant that’s taking your information, and profiting from it. In any relationship, eventually, you have to ask yourself what you’re getting from it. If the answer isn’t a positive one, then maybe it’s time to let it go. Just like the pal who steals, perhaps it’s time to “unfriend” social media.

Is social media stealing your life away? Read on to learn how social media services are buying and selling your private information to other companies that are using it for advertising.

Trading in Social Stocks

 

Image via Flickr by birgerking

In the same way day traders buy and sell stocks, companies are dealing in your information found on social media sites. In some cases, it’s assumed that the information you provide is being analyzed by an algorithm that targets your demographic so a company can advertise to you. You may have already accepted that engagement ring or weight loss ads are a fact of your social media experience.

But there’s something more sinister and lurking about the way companies are actually harvesting your information outside of what social media services provide access to. At least these practices are somewhat regulated and outlined in the terms and conditions.

Pro Publica reports, “Companies that collect social network information said they only take what is publicly available, and that they follow the rules laid down by each social networking site.” Yet, this isn’t exactly a comfort. Increasingly, as people use social media to find jobs (LinkedIn) and share images publicly (Instagram) to promote the “self brand,” location information and other private details are forgotten by the user.  These public items are exactly what companies are capitalizing on.

Criminal Access to Social Information

The same goes for criminals. Identity thieves are potentially profiting from your information as well. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), “The most effective way to protect yourself from identity theft is to make your social profile private.  As well, consider the information you're putting on your site. Does your friend of a friend really need to know your home address?  Probably not.  The more personal details you withhold, the safer you will be.”

The friendly details you share are fodder for common criminals. In the age of information technology, we’re all practically babies — social media is still new to us — and criminals are taking our information like candy. The same BBB report states that 54 percent of all social media profiles are a target for identity theft. What will criminals find on yours?

Stealing From Yourself

Whether or not companies or criminals are stealing your information may not be at the forefront of your mind. But what about the time you’re spending? Those 37 minutes a day translate to 259 minutes a week, and 13,468 minutes a year! If social media isn’t stealing your “likes” or your identity, it’s certainly stealing your time — and that’s one thing you can never gain back.

Social Justice

Social justice isn’t yet widely available. Identifying community corrections and new legislation may be possible in time, but as long as you willingly share your information without regulation, companies, criminals, and the sands of time will wear it away until you have nothing. Until the laws catch up with technology, your best bet is to make your own social media mandates. Restrict what you share and truly consider deactivating the profiles and accounts that don’t add anything to your life — and, in fact, take away from it.

With all the ways social media services and criminals have access to your information, it may seem like you no longer have control of what you share. However, ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what services are worth the networking — and fun — and which ones you could cut ties with altogether.

How will you change your social media habits? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Philip Cohen

Phil Cohen is a graduate from San Diego State University, with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Public Relations. He is currently working with a computer firm in Tampa, Florida. In his free time he enjoys freelance writing about technology products, as well as Scuba Diving, White Water Rafting, and taking Road Trips.

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Comments

You are right on several levels.  It is amazing how freely, myself included, we put information about ourselves online for the world to see.  Isn't it possible that less than "nice" people might access that information? Yes, of course.

I think that social media has the potential to create more introverted people, communities and even societies.  

Thanks for the post.  I enjoyed reading it.