Facebook reached over a billion members at the end of last year, as did YouTube. Google+ is catching up with 343 million and Twitter has 500 million users. There are many more social network apps out there and most of them have user figures exceeding 5 million. In fact if you add them all together there are probably more users of social networking sites than there are people in the entire population so it’s not too much to presume that almost everyone in the western world has at least one such account.
That’s an awful lot of public, searchable information about us, so should we be worried?
Social Media For Business
Social media plays an important role in business interactions. Once upon a time you had to forward your CV to potential employers but now all you have to do is link them to your LinkedIn profile which details not only your CV but the profiles of companies you worked for along with recommendations and endorsements.
You can use your profile to build up a network of people and companies that you are interested in and they in turn can endorse your skills or add a recommendation to your profile. This gives prospective employers all the information they need about you with little effort from yourself, however can employers really gain a true sense of who you are from your profile?
Personal Profile Analysis
We’ve heard about the case of the first British Youth Commissioner having to stand down because of offensive tweets she sent when she was 15 but it highlights just how social networks are increasingly being used to discover more about people.
It used to be that if you made a throwaway remark it stayed that way but now every Tweet is published for the whole world to see and it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove information from the net so the childish things you said on your profile can still be searchable years later.
Changing Personal Interactions
Social media has widened our possibilities. We can now find a job online, have our public profiles assessed and analysed, get advice from gurus and even have our decisions influenced by a large network of people we may never have met.
Given that social media has changed the way we see others, what is its worth? The answer is that its value is set by you, the user. Used wisely it can be an invaluable tool but used carelessly it can also be your downfall.