Panel discusses dark side of social media

By Claudia Guerra

In today’s technology-driven world, news can travel within seconds.When used irresponsibly, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can jeopardize important aspects of people’s lives, including their relationships, their finances and their careers.

That was the focus of the panel “Texting, Poking, Tweeting: Our Virtual Communication,” which was held on March 26 as part of the college’s Women’s History Month celebration.

Two teams, made up of one student and one professor, answered a series of questions about how social media is used and abused.

The team of speech professor Nick Vera and speech major Brittany Billington were asked if there are any differences between an online persona and an actual persona.

“I think an online persona is a little bit of a misnomer,” Vera said. “If you think about how we project ourselves, I’m different around my mom than I am around my friends, and I’m different around my friends than I am with my co-workers. I don’t think I’m being fake. There are just certain things I allow certain people to see about my personality online, that maybe I sort of keep hidden in person or vice versa.”

The second team of psychology professor Myesha Applewhite and science major Eli Santos was asked at what age they believe a child should be allowed to have a social media profile.

“It depends on what cognition development they are in,” Applewhite said. “The reason that is important is because if the child is not being constantly monitored by a parent, and they are able to sneak something in, then they have to be aware of the consequences of that posting. Even though we can’t control their behavior, the child should be cognitive enough to know this is risky.”

Children aren’t the only ones who need to be careful while on the Internet. Moderator Kelly Lynch pointed out that companies are using Facebook during the hiring process as an effective way to see what kind of person the applicant is. A status update or picture may be the difference between being employed and unemployed.

“If an employer was to see a picture of me drinking a beer and were to hold that against me, I wouldn’t want to work there,” Vera said.

Applewhite agreed with Vera’s point but said she could understand why companies choose to investigate potential employees on the web.

“In the company’s defense, the best predictor for future behavior is past behavior,” she said “We like to use heuristics because we’re busy people. So heuristics is a way to get to the chase, how can I discover who I’m really hiring.”

The final question centered on how virtual communication has influenced interpersonal communications with those who are in close relationships and what effect that will have on future generations.

Applewhite said texting, social media and other new forms of communication have “really diminished the quality of our interpersonal skills.”

LOL, WAT and IJS are some abbreviations exchanged during texting, tweeting and Facebooking. They’re used to shorten the number of characters one can use on social sites, but some believe the shortcuts are causing young people to slack when it comes time for face-to-face communications?

“We’ve become extremely lazy in how we think about communication and how that actually impacts and enriches our own lives,” Santos said. “Talking to somebody else is real. Talking through messaging is a virtual world. Reality and the virtual world should be separated, and people have to learn how to be cognitive about that.”

Literary arts major Floyd Clifton spoke up to disagree with Santos.

“The issues with the Internet are the same issues we have with literature,” he said. “Writing and punctuation problems existed before B.C. and the zero’s. Eventually, mankind caught up. Is our problem really us, or have we just not caught up with our own technology? I understand we have a lot of issues, but are we just behind and we just haven’t caught up, or are we blaming technology when we’re just too afraid to blame ourselves?”

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