EDITORIAL

The Dark Side of Social Media

Sanhita Saikia

sanhitasaikia@yahoo.com 
Social media allows people to reconnect, network and share knowledge due to the exponential growth of information and technology over the past 20 years. Social media in many ways has led to positive changes but it has a dark side too. Every second 5,000 statuses are posted in Facebook worldwide and 3,50,000 Tweets are sent out every minute through Twitter. 
Human nature to be social has turned social media into a mirror of our own self images. Facebook and Twitter like all things in life, are double-edged swords.What we say or how we act online says a lot about us. Once the information is posted it is shared around the world in seconds and then can be recalled even after decades. 
Cyberbullying and online stalking has reached epidemic proportions due to social media. It causes emotional trauma specially among teens and sometimes even leads to suicide.While on the surface it appears social networking brings people together, it may also create social isolation. As people spend increasing amount of time on social networks, they experience less face-to-face interaction. Specialists have determined that social isolation can lead to a host of mental, psychological, emotional and physical problems including depression, anxiety, somatic complaints and many others.
Most people believe that if they set maximum privacy settings on Facebook, they are immune from people spying on them. Profit maximizing business models developed for social media sites are designed so that we reveal more information about our lives, thoughts and opinions.This information can then be used to sell products, services or influence our behavior. In short, our rights to privacy are gradually  diminishing through social networking sites. 
The global storm engulfing Facebook over the data collection of 87 million users without their knowledge has led to the loss of nearly $ 80 billion of the social giant’s market value. Facebook knew of the data breach since 2015 yet it did not reveal the information.This has fueled the perception that the social media giant doesn’t take users privacy seriously and also that it can’t be trusted in governing. 
  The discovery of Russians using their sites has been a rude awakening for  Facebook, Google and Twitter. Now the companies must grapple with how Russian agents used their technologies for malevolent purposes. 
The US election of 2016 revealed the dark underbelly of all technological progress. It gave us a sense of how the same communication tools that can connect strangers globally can also be used to disseminate gas chamber memes and death threats. It also shows us how the same platform that put information at our fingertips can just as easily be used to undermine basic truths.
Technology has permeated into every strata of society and is playing a pivotal role in shaping social dynamics. Social media is here to stay and is akin to a drug that we don’t ingest.  By exploiting our desires for connection, social media can turn us into addicted rats if we don’t have a healthy and resplendent sense of self.