Image: Facebook illustration by Ludovico Vermeir

Until recently I thought that social media was a force for good. As someone who sometimes finds social situations fairly exhausting, social media seemed more of a solution than a problem. There is no doubt that it has revolutionised the way we interact with others. Social media can incite change and spread messages across the globe. Just take the Arab Spring as an example. Nonetheless, the ability for billions of people to connect and exchange views is a field ripe for exploitation from political groups and individuals. For that reason we must be wary.

The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica data scandal which occurred earlier this year publicly called into question the reputation of the social media giant and personally made us question the concept of social media as a whole. Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm, collected data from millions of Facebook profiles without consent and used their information for political purposes in the 2016 American Presidential Election.

Data breaches generally occur when cybercriminals illicitly and successfully infiltrate a data source and extract sensitive information. This can either be done by physically accessing a computer or by using a network to leak files bypassing security. Needless to say, the breach questioned our trust in the largest social media platform in the world, which has an estimated 2.23 billion monthly active members. Facebook lost not only face, but also money, with a stock price plummet of about 20 percent and a whopping market cap loss of $120 billion.

Never before has a generation diligently recorded themselves so much accomplishing so little.

This breach may have helped us to take a step back and think twice about our usage of these platforms, since in some way, perhaps through no fault of our own, we too have lost our true faces and identities. Never before has a generation diligently recorded themselves so much accomplishing so little.

Social media connectivity is an inevitable part of our generation’s lives, but, in most cases, we tend to feel less connected and lack the ability to form deeper and more committed relationships with those around us. A survey conducted by the Royal Society of Public Health on 1,500 students determined that higher levels of inadequacy, depression, self-loathing and anxiety were experienced by individuals who used social media more often.

Mark Zuckerberg once said that “by giving people the power to share, we’re making the world more transparent”. To Zuck, I say that what we really want is the power to make social media more transparent. Nobody is going to stop using social media – I certainly won’t – but it is for this exact reason that we must know what is going on. For the sake of our privacy, our health and our politics, we must ensure that we are the ones who use technology, and that technology does not use us.

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