What does social media say about you?

Danielle Zukowski

A friend was assigned a research project of sorts for one of her classes. Each student was given a different name. The task was to discover as much about this person as one could from a simple Google search that would inevitably filter into an assortment of links to further the pursuit. Now who were the subjects of inquiry? Their classmates.

Consider your Internet presence. How successful would someone be in scouring for information about you? An assignment like this provokes intrigue into the nature of virtual privacy, obviously, but also the accuracy of the knowledge we’re accumulating.

There’s a reason Instagram, Google and other sites of this variety aren’t typically acclaimed citations in research papers. Social media is lying made easy. With the tap of a finger you can become anything you want to be. If it’s not clear-cut fabrication, it’s articulated descriptions and preapproved photos that manufacture the desired alteration of perception. It’s a formulated representation of reality at best.

The MTV show Catfish introduced viewers to the world of fake profiles. The creator, Nev Schulman, launched an exploration of virtual love affairs inspired by his own online dating horror story. Emotional depletion of victims at the exposure of true identities exhibited a cruelty potent enough to make audience members want to sever all social media ties. However, the integration of perspective into the show forced the question of motivation. Some people lied for fear of rejection, some for revenge, some just due to raw maliciousness.

Potential dating matches aren’t the only ones creating fake profiles to learn about you. Recently, Facebook has issued a warning against the Drug Enforcement Administration for violating the code of conduct. The DEA has been impersonating drug addicts, dealers or whoever will assist their investigation through what has essentially come to be known as catfishing.

Other government officials have utilized the implementation of social media as an investigation tool as well. The article ‘Your new Facebook ‘friend’ may be the FBI’ ponders intrusion into privacy. How much is the government entitled to know about our personal lives and to what extent do they have to abide to the rules of the Internet? Which actually are quite vague guidelines.

Social Media is still very new. Problems like cyber bullying and virtual evidence for a criminal investigation were nonexistent in the past; therefore we struggle to concretely approach them. Accountability for online presence is a boundary that is yet to be defined. Is it a finable or convictable crime; is it even a crime? This will be a reoccurring conflict in courts.

It’s quite possible that restrictions will be made on government access to civilian’s social media accounts. An addition to the exclusionary rule may be written to address this issue. Other legal adaptations may also be necessary to tackle the constantly evolving nature of society. This is uncharted territory. With unfamiliarity, rules of the past have to be modified. The same laws don’t work for all situations any longer.

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