4 Things You Didn’t Know About Participating In Social Media

I am not usually one for pointing out the paranoid when it comes to modern technology. I have heard a great deal about privacy concerns, GPS tracking, satellite images and identity theft. For the most part, I can understand the worry, even if I tend to be pretty lax myself. But I usually figure that following common sense rules about self protection will be enough to see me through the myriad of modern day threats.

That isn’t my approach at all when it comes to social media, however. While I am one of the many who enjoyed the entertainment offered by sites like Facebook and Twitter, I am very aware of the risks. I am extremely careful about things like connected email addresses, privacy settings and who I have on my friends lists.

But many people aren’t aware by how many problems truly can arise through these profiles. So here are four real (and likely) things you probably didn’t know about social media.

Participating In Social Media

Potential Or Current Employers Can Stalk You

Earlier this year, it came to light that employers had been asking applicants or employees for their Facebook passwords in order to look through their social media information. Most refused and reported the employer as invading their privacy. But the law is still ambiguous on these issues.

In fact, there is no real regulation when it comes to how employers can use social media to look at you. Some might try to force you to ‘Like’ the official company page so they can see your activity, or discipline you if they see something that they don’t approve of posted as a status or photo.

You should be aware that this might come up in a future interview. Just know that, in the end, it is your right to refuse. But that it might effect whether or not you are hired.

Anyone Could Be Watching

Participating In Social Media

A year ago, my 13-year-old cousin was solicited by a middle aged man for sex on Facebook. He attempted to get her to send naked photos and meet him in person. It turned out that this man was a well known sex offender who was not legally allowed to have a social media page, thanks to his many exploits a few years before on then-popular Myspace.

Not only had he solicited girls online many times, but he had been prosecuted for both rape and unlawful sexual conduct with minors. But he was still on the social networking site, under his own name.

While sites like Facebook and Twitter do their best to monitor their users, there are so many that it is impossible to do so effectively. You could be speaking to anyone at all, even someone pretending to be a person you know.

Just look at what happened back in 2007, when a grown woman pretended to be a boy teenage girl Megan Meier had a crush on. She bullied her, leading the teen to commit suicide. Which is only one example of how someone can pretend to be anybody. Social networks are full of hatred, jealousy and spam. Make sure you or your kid has really thick skin before joining.

The Police Could Monitor You

Earlier this month, a huge decision was made by a judge in New York on the topic of social media as a tool for law enforcement. He ruled that police could use public posts for both cases and in a court of law if they were publicly posted on Twitter.

This shows a trend that has emerged, where police have used sites like Twitter and Facebook to track wanted criminals, ask for information and even search for offenders they had not yet had on their radar.

The ruling is sure to set an important precedent for similar cases in the future.

You Might Be On A Government Watch List

On a Government Watch List

Like law enforcement agencies, the government might have their eye on you, as well. It may sound paranoid, but there have been many cases of people being blacklisted, forced not to fly or taken into custody due to comments on their social media profiles.

One well known example is of Paul Chambers, a British man who made a joke about blowing up an airport if his flight was delayed. In 2010, he was stopped shortly before boarding that flight and arrested. He was given a fine and a criminal record.

Another example is of Joaquin Amador Serrapio Jr, who earlier this year was arrested by the Secret Service for posting assassination threats against President Barack Obama, claiming he would shoot him in the head during a trip to his local city of Miami, Florida.

While Serrappio’s comments were a clear threat, Chambers were a simple, if dark, joke. But both were caught, and both had consequences.


I am not saying that you should stay away from social media. I would be a hypocrite if I did, because I love my Facebook account. But you should be aware of the risks, and be careful not to invite trouble. Always remember that the law rarely keeps up with the pace of changing technology.

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3.

About The Author

Anna is the productivity junkie: she spends so much time collecting GTD tips that she hardly has time to get things done (the irony!)

1 Comment

  1. Ben says: - reply

    Yes social media can be challenging and many users are not aware of how much information can be traced back. What’s crazy to me is how Facebook tracks your activity online even after you log out of your service.