Social Media and Expression; Should You Post Yourself Online or Not?

Remnants from the previous generation still echo caution towards social media as though it were some horrific beast. We all hear people ranting about how we shouldn’t be posting ourselves online and how we need to err to the side of caution about what we write. Coming from the generation that stands between the no-internet era and the present day, I have to question why this is.

According to ebizmba.com, the most popular social media sites of today are (in this order);
1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. LinkedIn
4. Pinterest
5. Google +
6. Tumblr
7. Instagram

These sites express information ranging from personal day-to-day activity (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram) all the way to professional reference information (LinkedIn) and things we like online (Tumblr, Pinterest). Together these sites can form an image of who you are and what you are interested in.

Ad-targeting is the primary reason that this ‘internet self-portrait’ is so valuable. The information that you release gives a way for companies like Google to target specific ads at you. This is all in hopes that you click the ad and purchase whatever company is advertising. Essentially, by releasing your personal information, you’re giving companies the ability to measure trends about their products and advertise to the people who are most likely to buy their product.

The argument against social media seems to focus on protecting your information from advertisers and companies that wish to exploit your online portrait. However, this argument is unnecessary because ultimately the ads don’t do anything – you do.

When you publish a status on Facebook saying that you’re craving cheesecake,  you could be suddenly flooded with advertisements for chocolate cheesecake and the Cheesecake Factory. By releasing this information, you give companies the opportunity to try to exploit your cravings and wallet.

Is this wrong? Using your personal information to target what you may be interested in is not stealing money from you. You are ultimately the person who pulls your credit card out.

The second underlying concern seems to be that some governmental organization could be collecting information about you. By snapping pictures of what you had for lunch, some agency may be able to predict what you’re going to eat in the future.

This scares people because they believe someone who they don’t know could predict what they may do in the future. What website you visit often could show what kind of person you are but what importance does this have for organizations that aren’t out for profit? Are you afraid that you may be tracked or killed? How extreme is your mind contemplating this?

Where does this fear of sharing information stem from? The roots vanish once you try to look at them because the fear is irrational, Yes, the information that you release online can give people you do not know trends about who you are as a person. Yes, they can use this to advertise to you or monitor you. However, is this information truly that valuable to you?

Now comes the truly important question; do you benefit more from abstaining from these sites than through using them? By not being present in this social media world, are you missing out?

Social media to me is a way to stay in contact with my friends in Spain, Denmark, France, Chile, and all over the United States. By logging into any number of sites I can read what’s going on in my friends’ lives. I can communicate and tweet them what’s going on in my life.

By sharing my information, like which bar I went to tonight, I could spark a conversation with a friend who’s never been there before. My cousin takes pictures of her vegan food creations and spreads knowledge about being vegan. Some of my photographer friends blog about their lives so other people can read about them. Is social media really a bad thing?

In the comments below I want to hear your opinion. Do you think the benefits of using social media websites outweigh the potential cons? If you disagree on this topic, why do you think social media is bad?

As I move away across the country again this month I look forward to staying in contact with my friends around the nation. By expressing myself online I have opened the doors to keeping my friends and meeting new people. If you think social media is good, what are some of the opportunities that you’ve gotten by using these sites? Do you recommend it to others?

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