How Social Media Usage Determines our Individual Security
Ever since the advent of the internet in the year 1969. Our societies have xperienced a revolution in the way it interacts. Individuals could easily communicate with other individuals irrespective of distance, computer systems could be made to transfer information between themselves. Our societies and homes have witnessed a remarkable difference because of the globalizing effect of this invention. Like Stephen Hawking rightly mentioned, “we are all now connected by the internet like neurons in a giant brain” .
Following this invention was the evolution of other novel systems to aid communication such as the Social media, the internet of things and Information systems. “Social media is a countless array of internet-based tools and platforms that increase and enhance the sharing of information” . This information could be shared as texts, images, audios, and videos. Although, often times when it’s mentioned, what clouds our minds are websites and tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a number of them. Meanwhile, those are just under a classification of social media. From primitive years of social media till date, many different types and forms have cropped up, and are classified as social networks, forums, blogs, e-commerce, social bookmarks, social news, online reviews, and media sharing sites, search engines, and emails.
Interestingly, Social media has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, that its benefits are being leveraged across several areas, which includes personal, educational, advertisement, business, healthcare, dating, and entertainment uses. It is also being leveraged for other bizarre purposes such as cyber-bullying, witchery, and terrorism to mention a few. But generally, as the name implies, Social Media helps one or more persons connect, communicate, collaborate together and share information between themselves. Other common examples of social media platforms include LinkedIn, Nairaland, Whatsapp, Jumia and YouTube, Amazon, Vconnect, Google, Tumblr and Vimeo. There are also unpopular ones like 500px, an image sharing site, Second Life, a 3D virtual world where users can socialize, and many others in form of communities used for connecting a group of people.
In recent years, advancement in technology has increased the accessibility of social media platforms, that they could be accessed across different devices such as mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. It became easier to share our personal information, business, academic, and professional information seamlessly and rapidly. We could share our addresses, contacts, activities, and locations with anyone. We could share information about our relationships, visions, dreams, thoughts, goals, possessions, and sometimes our financial information with the public without paying attention to our security. We can easily develop friendships and relationships with known and unknown persons without regard for proximity because of the accessibility and ease it provides.
The manner in which various individuals use social media, the number of social media networks they belong to and the information they share are crucial determinants of their security. According to Stephen Covey, “security represents your sense of worth, your identity, your emotional anchorage, your self-esteem, your basic personal strength and the lack of it” . Margaret Cho affirmed that “privacy and security are those things you give up when you show the world what makes you extraordinary” . We need to be aware of the threat posed to our security when we release this information. The more information we share, the more vulnerable we become. Some people, in an attempt to publicize their status and exposure, they post their current location, their travel schedules, activities, and their intentions. Others reveal their feelings to the public, their contact numbers, and personal information such as hobbies and needs. They are ignorant of criminals who could utilize this information to exploit them, steal their identity or finance from them, rob them, and get them kidnapped or killed easily.
Although, social media has been of immense benefit for promoting social interaction both online and offline. However, while using them we may be providing information to people who intends to abuse it. Think of every social media site as private businesses which make money by collecting information about individuals and selling that information. Take, for example, Facebook; do you ever wonder why anytime you are interested in buying a product, say a laptop, you will find adverts on your Facebook wall regarding it. Or have you ever wondered how Facebook got to know about your friends and is able to make accurate suggestions with regards to them, including some contacts you just made? Do you know that the Facebook mobile app installed on our smartphones records and sends information about activities on that phone to Facebook? All these determine our experience on Facebook because they have our information. Facebook can predict our behaviours, interests, and preferences, all these depends on how we use their service. Do you know that those apps and games used on Facebook collect our information before we use them? Do you know Facebook sell our details to third party organizations like companies, advertisers and security agencies? So these organizations know what the public is interested in, they know what to produce and sell.
We can also become vulnerable to fraudulent organizations and individuals because of the details we provide about ourselves. Do you know that as we navigate different websites on the internet, Facebook and other social media we belong to can share our information with those websites? Hence these websites can store and use them for any purpose they intend to use it for. Imagine a scenario where cybercriminals act like legitimate organizations and get access to our information, which they can use for their mischievous purposes thereafter. We should beware of elicitation tactics by individuals on social media, that is, extracting information from people via conversation without giving them the feeling they are being interrogated. All these are factors determining our security online or offline, — a significant reason why we need to careful and conscious of which information we share and to whom we share them with.
In addition, consider Google and its services such as Google plus, YouTube, and Google Search engine as another case study. Have you ever wondered how Google tries to make a suggestion for us when we search for information on the search bar? Do you know the result you get for a particular search on Google is different for various persons, places, geographic locations, and professions? So in other words, Google knows about our idiosyncrasies as individuals from the way we use their services and the information they get from other Social media sites about us. Google becomes even more intelligent when we are consistently signed in to our accounts while using their services because our activities are constantly being logged. We need to be aware that most social media sites are interwoven and can share information about us among themselves. We should be aware that any information once posted on social media is no longer private but public. Or for example, when we purchase some products online via e-commerce sites like Amazon, and Jumia where products are sold and bought, we should not be oblivious that our financial information can be stored. Now imagine when cybercriminals get access to our login details, try to clone these services or act as an e-commerce site and make it available to us.
This article is unequivocally an exposition on the use of Social media and the threats it poses to our security. Therefore, it is not an attempt to discourage anyone from using social media services, but to be conscious of the risks involved while using it. We should be cognizant that the manner with which we use social media has a huge influence on our security as individuals. The way it enhances criminal activities, kidnappings, child abuse, theft, blackmailing, armed robbery, the proliferation of misleading information to the public and other illicit actions. For our security, when using social media, we should filter the information we share. In other words, before sharing anything online, we ought to ask ourselves, could this information be used to locate or identify me or my relations offline? Could it be used against me in some way? Could it give a wrong impression about me? Is it going to be a problem if I cannot withdraw it? We should beware of hyperlinks, they could be used to retrieve our information or hack into our accounts. It is essential we choose carefully which social media platform we use and for what purpose. We should be mindful of whom we share our details with and make effective use of the privacy settings available on social media platforms. When these precautions are adhered to, we mitigate risks of falling victims of identity or financial theft, scams and kidnappings, cyber-bullying, defamation and other threats posed on our security as a result of using social media.
 Jon Swartz, USA TODAY, “Stephen Hawking opens up — USATODAY.com,” 12 1 2014. [Online]. Available: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/MONEY/usaedition/2014-12-02-QampA-with-Stephen-Hawking_ST_U.htm.
 D. McKinley, Social Media Strategies for Dynamic Library Service Development, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016.
 S. R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, 2004. 
W. Carolyn, The Words of Extraordinary Women, Newmarket Press, 2010.