Social media has become a central part of everyone’s lives. And while there are many benefits to it, including regular connection with friends and family, engaging with social media also has some negative effects.

For many people, social media poses risks to their mental and emotional wellbeing. But, in particular, the information that you share on social media also creates a risk to your personal identity. By sharing too much, you increase the chance of your data falling into the wrong hands.

Negative impacts of social media
photo credit: Prateek Katyal

That’s why, in this article, we’ll share some of the negative effects of social media. We’ll also show you how you can protect yourself and continue to enjoy social media in a safe and secure way.

Why you should have concerns around data privacy

In the last decade, several incidents have shown how vulnerable our data can be when it’s shared with social media platforms.

In 2014, a survey found 8 out of 10 users had concerns about sharing their data with social media companies. And in 2017, the dramatic story of Cambridge Analytica also came to light where more than 50 million Facebook users were exploited for the 2016 US presidential elections.

As a result, Facebook paid a record-breaking $5 billion to the Federal Trade Commission. Yet, in the UK, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) fine was £500,000 – the maximum possible for a data breach.

So, while awareness of the negative effects of social media is increasing, daily use of these sites continues to be high. The average time each person spends on social media is now almost 2.5 hours each day.

Identity theft
photo credit: Jonathan / Flickr

What are some of the negative effects of social media on privacy?

Here are some of the risks you should watch out for, and think about how to avoid:

Identity Theft

Fraudsters will find any way they can to track down your personal data. Sharing too much, such as your address, contact information, or date of birth can allow criminals to steal your identity. When they have it, they can pose as you to gain access to your bank account.

Account Hacking

Viruses and ransomware spread well over social media. So, if your account is hacked by cybercriminals, fake messages containing malicious links could arrive in your contact’s inboxes. If they believe these spam messages, they could infect their computers.

Data Scraping

This happens when research companies harvest information to sell to other companies. All your social media activity can build a ‘digital footprint’ of who you are. And if the information is available to the public, there’s no legal way to prevent it from being misused.

Data leakages

As seen in several cases, there’s a chance your Facebook app could have leaked information to advertising and internet tracking companies. Recently, a Swedish software company was found to have an unsecured data bucket of more than 2 million users. This left millions of individual’s data exposed to criminals.

Social Tracking

Ever wondered why every advert you saw after you pressed ‘like’ on a post seemed the same? Most of us have cookies installed on our devices. And, once they’re there, cookies track your shares, likes, and posts and share this data with third-party companies.

Data privacy

What steps can you take to protect your privacy on social media?

Despite the risks to your personal data, there are several ways you can reduce your vulnerability:

  1. Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Make sure you’re not sharing any sensitive data in a public setting.
  2. Reduce the amount of personal information you give to your accounts. Remember to treat sharing your data on a ‘need to know basis’.
  3. Never log into your social media accounts using unsecured, shared, or public devices.
  4. Never accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
  5. Change your passwords. And never use the same one on other social media accounts.
  6. If you receive a link from a friend, think twice before you click on it. If it looks suspicious then treat it as such.
  7. Install two-factor authentication on your account. This is where you’ll need a mobile device or a second account to verify your identity.

Social media on smartphone

Further steps you can take

Now you understand the negative effects of social media better, do you feel more comfortable? Although you can take steps to limit your exposure to harm, you have a legal right to ask any company to confirm the data they hold on you. For Facebook users, there are a few ways you can do this:

Subject Access Request (SAR)

You can send a written request for your data to any company. It’s your right to see the personal data they hold on you. And, if you want to lower your exposure to the negative effects of social media, send a free subject access request Facebook.

Download your data

Facebook offers a way to download a file of your personal information. While this may be quicker than a request, it may not reveal the full extent of data held on their files.

Limit advertising

By minimizing the targeted ads sent to you while you browse Facebook, you can reduce the amount of information third-party companies hold on you. This won’t stop them from advertising, but can be a step to lower your exposure and protect yourself better.

Social media networking

Keep your data safe and secure while you enjoy the benefits of social media

Sharing personal information with social media sites will increase the risk of your data falling into the hands of criminals. So, make sure you’re taking steps to protect yourself by changing what you do on social platforms. By creating new habits, you can avoid becoming an easy target for opportunists.