June 17, 2013
Ninth graders Jennifer and Kristina were discussing Facebook at lunch one day. Jennifer bragged, “I have 2,000 friends on Facebook!” Kristina laughed and replied, “Ok…but how many do you actually know?” Jennifer thought about it and finally mumbled, “about 300.” Kristina laughed even harder. “So why do you accept friend requests from people you don’t know?” she questioned. “I don’t know, it makes me look cool, I guess,” Jennifer replied. Kristina just shook her head and went back to eating her lunch. Today it is estimated there are about 1.1 billion Facebook users. Twenty years ago social media didn’t exist, however today most people use it in some form or another. There are advantages and disadvantages to using social media; therefore, one must know how to take the proper precautions.
Social media often gets information out before the news broadcasts; as a result more people are becoming informed faster. At the recent bombing in Boston it had been reported that people in the crowd were updating Twitter and Facebook as more bombings were occurring. The news outlets tend to wait until something is confirmed before reporting it. By doing this the public came to the assumption early that this was not an isolated incident and in fact a terrorist attack. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism 2012 State of the News Media report, seventy percent of Facebook users get their news from Facebook while thirteen percent get it from news organizations. Twitter users who get their news links from Twitter was thirty-six percent while twenty-seven percent received their news from news organizations (Mitchell, Rosenstiel, Christian, 2012). These numbers will continue to grow as more and more people own smartphones and tablets. Police departments are also using social media as a new weapon to fight crime. From missing children to robbery suspects, police are posting pictures and videos on their ‘wall’ and asking for the public’s help. In June 2012 a survey was conducted by LexisNexis, a research services corporation, of social media use by law enforcement. Of the 1,200 federal, state and local law enforcement professionals interviewed, the survey concluded that 85% of law enforcement used social media to identify persons of interest in crimes and 75% used it to identify associates affiliated with persons of interest (LexisNexis, 2012). Not only are they using social media seeking with crimes, but also by just watching what people post. One law enforcement officer quoted: I was looking for a suspect related to drug charges for over a month. When I looked him up on FB, and requested him as a friend from a fictitious profile, he accepted. He kept “checking in” everywhere he went so I was able to track him down very easily (LexisNexis, 2012)
Ultimately, as more people become technologically advanced, news organizations and law enforcement are relying on social media more to get information so they can reach a wider audience. Some of the disadvantages to social media are child predators, children kidnapped, houses robbed, bullying, and flash mobs. There have been TV shows that set up and trap child predators, people who prey on underage girls online. These predators have inappropriate conversation, send inappropriate pictures and sometimes convince them to meet to have sex. It was a thrill to watch these men get arrested even though it was probably a small percentage of the predators out there that do this on a daily basis. Men also befriend teenagers online and convince them to meet in person; most of these girls are never heard from again. Some think social media is a forum to put every single aspect of their lives. They don’t realize that as they are posting pictures and talking about the wonderful vacation they are having far away from home