Deceit and Danger in the World of Social Media

It’s no secret that social media (and the internet in general) can be a dangerous thing if not treated properly. But in recent years, these dangers appear to have become more prevalent – and have even taken on new, sometimes sinister, forms. While social media is undoubtedly ephemeral, the concept of deceit on the internet appears to be in it for the long run.

The Innocence of Deceit

Deceit is a strong word. Your mind automatically jumps to the concept of a well-thought out, malicious understanding of the word. The idea that you are deceiving with a little white lie does seem a bit dramatic, but that’s exactly what I’m talking about in this section.

We’ve all done it. In fact, there’s a whole campaign about it.

Embellishing the truth can, for the most part, be entirely harmless. It’s an innocent deceit. Whether you’re photoshopping yourself some skinnier legs or you’re making that slightly green holiday-pool a little bluer, you’re not setting out to hurt anyone. So why is it that there have been so many campaigns against photoshopping in magazines over the years?

The answer is simpler than you realise. It’s not you, or the people you are close to, who are even remotely affected by what you’re doing. It’s those who follow you – perhaps those who are more impressionable – who start to wonder why they’re not quite so skinny, or why they can’t afford a hotel with a nice blue pool. Again, these are pretty innocent and not even particularly concerning things, but there’s no denying that these white lies add up to something bigger. The subtle ways in which things like this can make you feel just a little bit worse about yourself. These things are capable of pushing people over the edge and depression is by no means a joke.

And then we come to the not-so-innocent. The (specifically blogger related) bot-buying, the #ad omitting, the fake New-York-skyline embellishing and photo stealing. While I’m not going to comment further on any of these things specifically, these are worth mentioning due to the unrealistic expectations they set for people, as well as the general concept of bloggers ‘lying their way to the top’ and actually kind of succeeding with it. (As in, scoring PR collaborations).

The Darker Dangers

Deceiving can obviously take on a much more sinister form too, one capable of leading people to great danger, which brings me to the next part of this post – the darker dangers of the internet.

So, yes, there are the ‘innocent dangers’, which can have damaging affects on impressionable people. But the far more serious dangers are the ones that are the least innocent – where you get yourself, or others, into trouble.

This ranges from the simple “common sense” elements like telling strangers where you are, to the more unique elements such as publicly bullying and trolling (essentially, in worst case scenario, inciting a man hunt). There also seems to have been a rise in ‘suicide games’, accidental deaths caused by taking selfies (and charging phones in baths), hoax plots threatening terrorist behaviours, to name a few scenarios. There’s no denying that being sat behind a computer screen gives people the confidence to cross lines that they wouldn’t cross in the physical world.

I think these dangers have two root causes. Firstly, there’s the malicious, intention-to-harm style. Predators seek out their prey and people on the internet readily give them the information they need without necessarily realising.

Then there’s the danger that comes from (I’m going to say it, sorry) social media addiction. The incessant need to be liked, followed and friended. The idea that you must get the ultimate selfie even if you die doing it. The recent obsession with going viral. There have been times where I’ve literally trawled through updates on all social media accounts, locked my phone and opened it seconds later to check again. When did I become so addicted?

The idea that you can’t spend a certain amount of time away from it is concerning, but it’s more about our behaviour online too. We’re not so careful with the information we share any more.

The Celebrity Scandal

From the tame (Lorde’s onion ring instagram), to the far more sinister (leaking of nudes, Katy Perry breaking down over her celebrity persona, that Jonah Hill ‘fat guy’ interview), we’re not short of celebrity scandal.

The biggest and most frightening thing to consider is the way celebrities behave on social media. They’ll post a public Snapchat story saying they’re at a movie premiere or something, which is of little consequence. Sure, there are some very clear dangers related to being in the public eye, but they’ve also got the benefit of protection (bodyguards for example) as a result of that. When we copy their social behaviours, we aren’t privy to that same protection. We are just putting ourselves at risk. It’s no surprise that celebrities are often on the receiving end of death threats, especially on social media. This goes back the idea of setting up a kind of ‘man hunt’ – it’s shocking just how many people will get behind that kind of thing, but at the end of the day, celebrities are very unlikely to see those threats come into fruition.

This isn’t to say they’re not remotely upset or afraid when this stuff happens, but perhaps we don’t consider that threats to ourselves are much more plausible.

A Wonderful Evil

Social media is a wonderful thing. I know I’ve written a lot of things that could be perceived as slating or hating, but I actually love it. It has a lot of genuine positives. I guess my biggest concern is the lack of awareness some of us have with it, or the danger we might accidentally put ourselves in.

As always, I’d love to hear your opinions on this! Feel free to share your thoughts.

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