Who’s Afraid of Social Networks?

I have this friend who is afraid of social networks.

No, really, it’s a friend, not me.  She’s afraid of who is out there, who is “listening” and who will be targeted for some unspeakable act.  There are some who say her fears are legitimate.

But most people don’t seem to be afraid.  In fact, according to a Pew Internet & American Life study, Facebook users are more trusting than people who are not members of the social networking site.

A Facebook user who uses the site, “… multiple times per day is 43 percent more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as non-Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.”

Does that mean that using social media like Facebook is safe, free from any risk?  No.

Social networking, like any other communication tool, can be used for dark purposes.   That thin slice of our society that engages in crime has always found ways to turn ordinary items into weapons they can use to seek money, to seek revenge or just to seek satisfaction.

But that’s not news.  The saga of good guys and bad guys hasn’t changed much since human beings started writing about who killed whom. What has changed is the weapon.  To the very small minority who use whatever they can get their hands on to commit crimes, social networks are just another hammer or knife or gun.

To the rest of us, social networks are a way to share thoughts, ideas, and opportunities.   The power of this tool, the accessibility, has opened doors to people who can and are changing the world.  No matter what you think of them, the Occupy Wall Street movement has found a voice and a way to affect change using social media.

Don’t want to engage in politics online?  How about using social networks to help find a cure for cancer?

Watch this TED talk and you will see that social media is being used to open up opportunities that were never dreamed of.  Scientists, doctors, and researchers around the world are using social media to collaborate on finding cancer cures.   This was not and is not financially viable, not feasible, not happening any other way than via social networking/media.  And Jay Bradner is not the only one using this incredibly powerful tool.

Pick a topic.  Do a search.  Find a group of like-minded people from around the world who are thinking and talking about just what you are interested in.  That’s the power of social media.

Do I sometimes think about who else is out there?  What they might be doing with what I write?  Sure.  Then I move on.

It does not pay to cede control to a faceless, nameless character who might, just might find me on Facebook or Linked In or Twitter.  I will not become an intellectual prisoner any more than I will become a prisoner in my own home.  I am not afraid of social networks.  Maybe she shouldn’t be either.

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