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Nkosinathi Mokoena
 
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Are we benefiting anything from Social Networks?

28 May 2012, 07:22

Social networking is a popular form of communicating with friends around the corner and around the world. It has become one of the top forms of communication even above the phone. With the benefit of global communication, however, come risks and negative impacts.



Few today remember the old party lines, but social networking is much like these party lines. Networkers must be careful what they say because the world is watching. While networkers have the ability to IM and chat one on one, much of what is said on social networks is viewable by the public. Like the old party lines, there is no privacy when everyone can see what is said.
Another privacy issue is hacking. Because social networks do not offer security measures for their users, many of the computers used by networkers are vulnerable to hackers. Every bit of information on a networker’s computer becomes available to those skilled in this science, often without the knowledge of the networker.



Along with the ability to hack is the ability to plant viruses. Many viruses today are passed through social networks, often undetected. Networks are a playing field for computer viruses.



Social networks are largely uncensored. While this may not seem to be an issue, some of the photos and language used by some networkers is inappropriate for children, yet it is viewable by the public. Because children of any age may network, everything available to adults is also available to children, and some things simply should not be seen by children.
Along with privacy and censorship comes the issue of cyber predators. Social networks do not screen their users and have no real way of knowing what kinds of people are using the network. Social networks offer a hunting ground of sorts to cyber predators seeking out unsuspecting networkers. Cyber bullies are also able to use social networks as an easy way to blast their prey. Until social networks find a way to screen its users and disallow predators and bullies, this will continue to be a problem with networking.



One of the greatest impacts of social networking is on the social skills of networkers. Older generations of networkers learned how to communicate and interact long before networking was even a thought, but much of the younger generations do not interact socially except at school and work, where social interaction is well monitored and minimal. Social networking has created a serious breach in the ability of young people to communicate and interact with each other. Children no longer play together; they network. Adults no longer seek physical companionship; instead, they choose to network and have little or no physical contact.



Employers find that many young people do not have the necessary verbal and social skills to obtain a job. Often, those lacking the verbal skills to land a job spend much time networking and texting on cell phones. Not only has social networking impacted the amount of time people spend in physical contact with each other, but it has also caused deterioration in the ability of young people to effectively communicate with potential employers for entry level positions.



Social networking can impact health. The less a person moves the more weight that person is likely to gain, and few calories are being burned while sitting in front of a computer. Computer monitors have been proven to cause eye strain, leading to poor eyesight. Little movement has been proven to lead to muscle weakness, less muscle development and, in some cases, bone loss. Back, neck, and joint pain have been associated with too much computer use. Social networkers often spend hours networking, leading to weight and health issues.



Like all things, social networking can be beneficial in moderation. Unfortunately, moderation and networking do not coincide in today’s society. Social networking allows for unnecessary risks in privacy, safety, social skills, and health. Networking, at best, offers such ease of communication that social skills deteriorate, and at worst, is dangerous for children and networkers unaware of the predators lurking in the network.

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