Last week, we witnessed one of the most powerful personalities in the world, Donald Trump being suspended from his social media accounts. The unrestricted freedom of social media is very appealing but we should all ponder over whether we are following the right etiquettes before posting, sharing, commenting or liking a post on social media. The issue has brought the focus back on how we engage with our social media accounts which is not controlled by set rules.

As we increasingly spend more time hunched on our mobile phones than ever before, it would not be wrong to say that social media governs our lives. Social media flourishes through willingly shared unprotected private information. So, the ethics of the end user is primarily what makes social media safe. Ethics means the right thing to do, so it is essentially about being governed by your own moral conscience.

According to the latest 2020 data, some 3.96 billion people use social media which accounts to half the population in the world. On an average, we spend 2 hours and 44 minutes on our social media accounts. In a lifetime, if a kid starts using the social media account at 10 years of age, that person will end up spending six years and eight months on social media. Let’s look at the breakdown of time spent on each social media.

YouTube – 1 year, 10 months
Facebook – 1 year, 7 months
Snapchat – 1 year, 2 months
Instagram – 8 months
Twitter – 18 days

So, essentially our family and loved ones are competing for our attention with the mobile phone screens and sadly, the virtual screens are winning. It is high time we turn out attention towards our personal ethics when handling social media platforms.

Respect Privacy on Social Media

Privacy and social media are an oxymoron in itself. Every time you receive a photo or video as an inane forward, question whether the post is breaching the privacy of any individual. A post or a video an individual is posting by their own free will does not breach privacy but a private photograph or video shared wildly on online platforms is a serious breach of privacy if done without their consent and one should consider what impact it will have on the individual. So do not get overzealous about sharing posts and videos where you feel the individual’s privacy is being breached or the individual featured in the post might not have given their consent.

Verify Information on Social Media

Social media platforms allow all kinds of information to thrive and gain popularity. This has meant emergence of fake news especially morphed images, illicit medical cures and propaganda against scientific information or communities. In fact, fake news spreads faster than verified news. Such information should not be shared without checking the validity of the claims. A simple Google search and fact checking will help you understand if the information is false. Malicious information on individuals without any substantial proof should be ignored and not shared with others.

Social Media Bullying

One of the biggest freedoms social media allows is the freedom of speech, which we are indecently misusing through social media. The choicest of abusive words and crude insulting find their way into the social media platforms in the form of trolls, which most of the users are not likely to use in everyday life. Hiding behind anonymity, individuals have taken to ugly forms of bullying forgetting it can be traced back as anything one posts on internet is saved for posterity and will reflect back on them. Cyber bullying on social media has become the biggest bullying menace that youngsters face today. The most common type of harassment faced by youngsters is name-calling which deeply affects the young minds sometimes leading to tragic consequences. We need to refine the way we communicate on social media and show the path for youngsters.

Limit Personal Sharing on Social Media

We have no idea of how to protect our personal information on social media because when we are using social media for free we end up becoming the product ourselves. Some of the users share every feeling and activity they have indulged in on social media without any thought about the risks involved in such sharing. The shared personal information becomes high valued data in today’s IT world. There is an invisible data gathering happening behind the scenes which amount to the billions that the social media platforms are worth. Social media is also available for hackers and other criminals with antisocial credentials. By sharing intimate information, one is making oneself vulnerable to such elements.

Detoxification from Social Media

The biggest danger of social media is its addictive nature. We have become obsessed with our mobile phones with everything else taking a secondary spot. People on an average interact (swipe, type, click, tap) with their phone a whopping 2,617 times each day. With the heavy mobile user, the number rises to 5,427. So, when you keep the phone away even for an hour each day, you are giving considerable rest to your body and your mind. Take time off from social media to savour the real life happening around you. And if you think you are not addicted, here is a simple question. Can you spend one complete day without turning on your mobile phone data? If the answer is no, you are in denial of your addiction. One of the best ways to detoxify is to put away your mobile phone one hour before you go to sleep and to not touch it until the next morning.

Social media thrives on us sharing personal information. There is no denying that social media has helped us remain sane and connected during these testing times. We could not have survived the pandemic without some form of social media. So, the solution is to respect every individual’s personal information and to do away with over sharing. Today the pandemic has forced young children very early into the addictive world of social media. It is the responsibility of each one of us to keep the children protected and show them the path towards healthy etiquette in social media usage.

I leave you with the trailer of the documentary, The Social Dilemma. The film is available on Netflix and unravels the ways in which social media is controlling our lives and affecting young minds.