Understanding Online Safety On Social Networking Sites

Social Media Logotype Background
As time goes on we grow to become more reliant on the internet in our day-to-day lives. The internet has been around for years and it’s an incredibly wonderful and convenient resource for all ventures in life. But like any tool created for good it can be also used to do bad things, something which I’m sure is not news to anyone. However there’s some very basic precautions that surprisingly few people are aware of, even to this day. When using internet websites we come across all types of people and depending on the website, the types of people we meet can be quite varied. As I mentioned above, not everyone is civil and sometimes disagreements happen, large paragraph long arguments occur and every so often people tend to get personal.  Human differences in opinion have existed as long as humans have communicated but in this new forum of communication we have the tools necessary to deal with any disagreements or situations that get out of hand, but to be made aware of this it takes both prudence on the individual’s part and clear regulations on the side of the website you’re on.

ag_293499Understanding Social Media
The advent of social media brought about an unbelievably useful and powerful way of connecting and communicating in ways we never imagined. Being able to find all your high school friends from back in the day, talking to relatives you haven’t seen in years, or being a part of a group or fandom that shares interests. This isn’t limited to the main two social networking sites either; I refer of course to Facebook and Twitter, which both have millions of users already and thousands signing up everyday. Nowadays, news websites, video sites like YouTube, blogs and so on, all have social networking features such as the ability to comment and reply to comments, share the content or create content of your own. People can sign up as users to a website in order to gain access to its many features, giving them the ability to communicate with others, but unfortunately in some cases it allows them to spread hatred to others. You don’t have to look far to see the kind of hatred that gets thrown around on sites by people who are opposed to an individual, an organization or a thing. Some opposition can be constructive and paves the way for interesting conversations, while some can be downright bad and unnecessary. The anonymity of the internet allows any individual on the planet to say just about anything they please and it can cause a lot of turmoil both on the website and in real life. This isn’t anything new of course, but as the internet grows more and more prominent I believe that it becomes absolutely essential that everybody understands online safety in a way that makes surfing the internet simple and rewarding.

trolls-dont-feed-640x360Don’t Feed The Trolls
If you’ve been around any social networking sites in the past 3-5 years then you’ve most likely encountered the word ‘trolling’. The term itself has a lot of history and dates pretty far back, a simple Google search will yield hundreds of results and definitions. At this point, the term is broadly used to refer to a form of joking that is done for the exact purpose of getting a reaction out of somebody, and this action can be done either innocently in the form of silly jokes to more serious offensive behavior. Trolling itself is harmless since it relies on the intent of the individual and the reaction of the person that receives the trolling, but more often than not a lot of people don’t recognize the difference between trolling and someone being serious. Telling this difference takes a bit of experience and knowledge of what constitutes as trolling and when, but even then you can’t always be sure when someone’s trolling or not. Anybody can troll, telling intentions is difficult when you’re not face to face or you don’t know the person doing it and at times it can definitely get out of hand. I don’t want to write an entire thesis on the nature of communicating on the internet but I do want to explain a few essential points about dealing with internet ‘trolls’ or abusive people; you don’t have to take it.  I don’t aim to demonize trolling or legitimize it either, but I think it’s important to be aware that trolling exists and when trolling can take a wrong turn then you have to understand what to do about it. The term ‘don’t feed the trolls’ is a very appropriate one that explains the simple way of defeating them: to ignore them. When people attempt to get a rise out of you the simple way of not giving them the satisfaction is by simply ignoring them and not replying to any ‘troll bait’ they lay for you. By reacting, arguing or getting upset you’re not only giving in to a troll, you’re also making your social experience unnecessarily hard and unpleasant. It’s easy to want to stand up for yourself like you’re being talked down to by bullies but you have to remember that these are anonymous people on the internet that you’ll probably never meet. You gain nothing from trying to defeat them with words but you gain everything from giving them silence, it shows that you have the confidence and self control to combat those who try to ridicule you. It’s simple decisions like this that make using social networking sites all the easier.

Report-Hide-Block-Unfriend-Person-From-FacebookReporting/ Blocking – Necessary Tools For Dealing With Offenders
On most, if not all, websites that have any form of social communication features, such as Facebook and Twitter, there are a variety of tools in place to deal with people who may be offensive, uncivil or even just trolling. As I mentioned some trolling can be harmless, but when it isn’t: people need to be aware of what to do about it. On these websites you have the options to block someone who may be offending you, report their profile or page for violation of the websites rules or just avoid communication with said person altogether. It is difficult to deal with people who have hatred for you or something you care about and a lot of the time many people take any kind of negativity to heart and try to wax lyrical about their convictions. However there’s a certain amount of prudence that everyone needs when it comes to being online, as we will always encounter people who either disagree with us, hate us or insult us for any reason, and the best thing to do sometimes is just walk away. I learned the hard way that getting stressed over every little thing someone says will mean that I’m always arguing all the time!! That isn’t to say that if something more serious is said then you shouldn’t take more drastic action; if a person is threatening you or saying horrid things then you should immediately report them or contact the authorities if this person has a name and address. This should only be done in extreme cases and I don’t advocate calling the police on anyone that says something bad about someone. If someone is getting cyber-bullied, constantly harassed/ abused or (worst case scenario) threatened by someone then you should immediately take action, report them to the website’s administrator and block that individual. I don’t believe that it is ok for any of these things to occur but the unfortunate truth is that is does occur all the time and you might not always hear about it. I’ve come across people saying some truly atrocious things and often nothing is done about it and people have their feelings hurt or worse. I’m not at all apathetic to these cases, I merely hope that people can understand how to efficiently deal with the random people you encounter online so that you can have peace of mind when using social media.

leveraging-social-mediaTake Care When Interacting With Others
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that everyone needs a bit of education when it comes to using websites which are used by a lot of people. Not just social networking sites but also any website with social features and communication. This isn’t aimed particularly at the older generation who may or may not understand the internet and neither is this aimed specifically at ‘protecting children’ or anything like that; this article is aimed at everybody, as I believe that everybody who uses social media needs to understand how to use it safely and smartly. When I say ‘online safety’ I refer to the ability to use the internet in the assurance that you can deal with any hazardous situations that may occur and being able to tell direct abuse from harmless trolling. If more people could understand basic online safety it will allow people to better their experiences on websites, instead of constantly arguing or living in fear of the people you might meet. The net is vast and infinite, and it is up to us to take the necessary steps to ensure our safety while browsing so that we can utilize its features to our benefit not our detriment.

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2 thoughts on “Understanding Online Safety On Social Networking Sites

  1. Pingback: Understanding Online Safety On Social Networking Sites | Life & Likes, by Patrick T

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