Using Social Media To Your Advantage

After analyzing a conversation I had with a fellow friend a few weeks ago (who might I add, was the number one critic of social networking sites), I was reminded of all the advantages that coincide with social media sites.  Upon doing some research, I realized that when you are provided with access to easy tools that spread awareness and share ideas – good things can happen.  Social media networks are useful tool in more ways than just connecting; it provides users with the means to excel socially, politically, professionally and overall influentially.

Awareness of Movements & Making a difference

Social media networks are powerful tools for promoting awareness and spreading information about a cause.  It enables users to have a public voice, sharing their political views and truths to stories that was previously silenced by the government-controlled news stations.  Social media websites permit users to broadcast the whole truth to accounts that are not always released and, in most cases. users are the first ones on the scene to report breaking news-worthy events.

Many non-profit organizations use social media as a channel to interact with others and gain support in making a difference.  It allows for users to share their stories on a personal level and appeal to the general public.  In some cases, people do not necessarily care about a cause, but support it because of how it is expressed.  Reddit is a social media network that enables users to promote and generate news stories ‘to the front page of the internet’.  It is a beneficial website to spread interesting information and appealing stories to a wide population.  In the following Ted talk, I learned about Reddit’s role in the GreenPeace organizations success in saving the humpback whales from being killed by the Japanese government, all because of the internets love for ‘Mr. Splashy Pants’.

Another touching story that I recall trending on social media was ‘A Lung Story’.  Helene Campbell was diagnosed at the age of 20 with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and needed a lung transplant in a critical timely manner.  She used social media networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr to share her story and help several others in need of an organ by trending #BeAnOrganDonor and #GiveBlood.  Due to her persistency and influence, Helene received a lung transplant on April 6th, 2012 that saved her life.  The mission of ‘A Lung Story’ carries on to help others by promoting awareness of organ donation registration and informing the public about the importance of blood donations.  This is just one of the many remarkable stories that demonstrates how social media has helped make a difference in society.

Even corporate companies have used social media as an outlet to gain support for online movements.  Earlier on this year, on February 12th, 2013 Bell Canada donated 5 cents to mental health services across Canada every time someone posted #BellLetsTalk on Facebook, Twitter and via text. My Twitter feed was flooded with tweets from my friends wanting to help support the cause.  The company raised over $4.8 million from the 96 million tweets, Facebook shares and texts they received.

I personally felt like I contributed to a smaller online campaign that one of my friends had organized on Facebook.  She decided to create a page that promised if she received 250 likes within a week she would cut her hair and donate it to cancer patients.  She asked other’s to help spread the word, deliver information about the process and encourage people to partake in donating as well! It did not go global, but it did help raise awareness – and in my opinion, every ounce of support counts.

Advancing Your Career

Social media networking sites have also allowed individuals and corporations to excel on a professional level.  Many critics would argue that social media is more likely to get you fired from a job, than hired – my best friend being an advocate of this.  However, if you properly utilize social media websites and post the right content, you could open several doors for professional opportunities.

Various brands use social media to their advantage because they have access to millions of users, that they can virally interact with, at no cost. In 2010, 68% of small businesses resorted to social media marketing and produced immediate remarkable results.  It allows businesses to attract new customers who were unaware of the services they offered.  I think endorsing your company via social media is a great way to get noticed by potential clients.   A friend of mine recently created a business that produces professional websites for corporations.  He depends on social media networks to develop a client base by connecting with organizations online, offering specials and posting examples of his services. I recently saw him post on Facebook that he took his two best friends to Atlantis in Bahamas… on a private jet, in other words, I gather he is doing extremely well.

LinkedIn is a social media site designated for individuals seeking to network and develop connections in their professional occupations. It grants job seekers the opportunity to learn about different companies they are interested in working for by viewing job openings, and connecting with previous and current employees.  According to Forbes magazine, one-third of employers utilize this site as a means to screen potential employees by networking and getting a glimpse of their lifestyle outside their resume or interview. Ultimately, it gives job seekers and employers the opportunity to find the best fit for a given position, allowing both the individual and company to excel.


YouTube is another social networking site that has led to a successful career of fame and fortune for various individuals. It is safe to say that Canadian pop star Justin Bieber would not have been discovered by Usher if it weren’t for the homemade videos he had produced and uploaded to YouTube.  It’s hard to believe, not that long ago, he was a small town boy singing on streets of Stratford, Ontario at the Avon theatre… now his net worth is nearly $130 million.

Social Acceptance and Personal Gain

Not everyone uses social media to advance themselves in a professional or profitable manner – some people use it to gain social approval and gain in society to obtain a higher social status.

I find that some of my Facebook friends use social media as an encouragement tool.  One of my friends has lost a bunch of weight and posted a before and after picture of her results, followed by comments such as, “You look great, keep up the good work!” Another friend posted a picture captioned ‘just woke up #NoMakeup’ with countless comments on how naturally beautiful she is. People LOVE social media because they love recognition and receiving compliments from their peers.  Social media networks grants us instant gratification to elevate our moods based on the amount of likes and comments we receive.

A Klout score can be calculated on a scale of 1 to 100, ranking users on how interactive, influential and engaging they are over others via social media.  The Klout score is calculated by the number of likes, comments, shares, friends, followers, re-tweets and mentions you receive over a 90 day period.  The higher your Klout score, the more perks you earn because of your powerful influence over others.  The more social attention you receive, the greater amount of rewards you will reap.  My brother just recently stayed at a hotel in Las Vegas, he witnessed a fellow guest handing the concierge a Klout perks voucher that gave him an amazing discount rate.  I was stunned that by merely tweeting your location and posting on Facebook you could receive ample rewards!  My Instagram is already flooded enough with pictures of food and restaurants, I can only imagine what my home page will look like once society discovers Klout perks!

So, next time you have a conversation with a social media critic, remind them of how you can use social media to your advantage.


The Modern Form of Eavesdropping: Online Disclosure

It is heavily apparent that when online privacy comes to mind, people often associate it with dangers such as identity theft, trackers and frauds. However, they often disregard the breach of privacy regarding the invasion of our personal lives. (It is safe to say, it doesn’t help that social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare encourage us to over-share every detail of every waking moment of our lives). It is clear to me, that social networking sites have created a modern form of eavesdropping; tapping into other’s covert lives via the Internet. 

From past to present…

According to a study conducted by Phoenix SPI, seven out of ten Canadians believe their protection of personal information has diminished over the past ten years.  Evidently, it is apparent this is due to the increased level of accessibility created by the advancements in technology such as the Internet, Smartphones, tablets and laptops.  We have become vulnerable to exposing private details due to viruses, hackers and even copy and paste functions.  Due to this realization, I have recently had an epiphany – eavesdropping, as we once knew it has evolved alongside with technological advancements.  The internet has made it nearly impossible to maintain personal information as private.

In the 1700’s, if you wanted to spy on another individual’s personal life, you needed to literally place your ear to the eavesdrop to listen in on the hushed conversations that occurred within a home.  The only ‘wall’ that existed back then was the one that stood between the mole and the exploited.  However, in modern society, if you want to snoop another individual, just view their Facebook wall, Twitter feed or Instagram account.

Nothing Online is ever private…

Despite the risks associated with online privacy, I find myself questioning why society continues to expose personal aspects of their lives on social media websites.  Especially, after reviewing my CIS class poll and discovering that a majority of the students deemed that they only had ‘some’ concern over the data that Google/Facebook has collected about them.  I’ve reached two conclusions: Firstly, people are ignorant and unaware of the dangers associated with disclosing personal information. Or, secondly, the public is aware of the consequences but irrationally outweighs the costs and benefits of revealing personal information.  According to Cory Doctorow on TED Talks, we expose personal aspects of our life such as pictures of our family, our pets and our loved ones because we are lavished with attention from others.  It is a form of instant gratification; the more we post the more social reinforcement we receive.  However, it is important for individuals to focus on the long-term cautions of disclosing personal information instead of the instant satisfaction.

For example, at my previous place of employment, one of my co-workers was having a rough day at the office and decided to vent her issues about other co-workers via her Facebook status.   At the time, she felt relief and gratification from several of her friends on Facebook comforting her online. However, she was later fired when a fellow coworker shared this information with our employer.  It just goes to show that ‘private’ social media accounts are not entirely private.  According to Brad Rosen, social media users presume there is an ‘implied contract’ between you and your ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ that only those who you permit shall access your page, and all others are prohibited.  However, the moment you grant others access to your personal information, you are providing them with the risk and possibility that they could share this information with a third party as well. Many would argue that this is an invasion of privacy, but nonetheless, this is a harsh reality of social norms due to modern online forums.

The Infamous Screenshot…

Snapchat, has become a recent phenomenon due to it’s ‘security’ claiming that confidential photos will only be viewed for less than 10 seconds before they disappear forever.  Nevertheless, the ‘screenshot’ is a popular tool used on iPhones, Androids and other Smartphones allowing users to save the shots to their camera feed.  The following video outlines the heavily prevalent risks associated with this app:

Regardless of whether security functions such as ‘copy and paste’, ‘save as’ or ‘reshare’ are disabled – individuals still have the ability to screenshot or print screen private content. Not only are Snapchats not private, but e-mails, images, text messages and even social media feeds are unprotected from being saved to someones hard drive. Some hackers even have the knowledge and power to tap into webcam devices and spy on individuals.

The Inevitable…

When revealing personal details online, it is important to expect the inevitable… glitches.  Just this past week, Facebook exposed nearly six million people’s private content due to a bug in its data archive.  Facebook wished to analyze the data on each contact list to generate ‘friend’ recommendations.  However, during this process, a bug explicitly shared the private contact information to fellow ‘friends’.

Just this past year, a friend of a friend of mine was doing some ‘hardcore creeping’ on her ex boyfriends Facebook timeline.  She came across some inbox messages that were intended to be private between him and another girl dated during the time of their relationship. To her dismay, she discovered that her boyfriend had an affair with this other girl.  Although, she was thankful for Facebook’s bug exposing user’s private messages via timeline, it was a clear violation of privacy.  Facebook denies all allegations and claims there was no breach of privacy.  However, thousands on thousands of its users filed complaints regarding violations of confidentiality.  Despite privacy laws, technological glitches prove that you should trust online privacy as far as you can throw it.

The ‘Black Hole’…

I have always found myself wondering where exactly does my personal information go once I have entered it into the web? I consider the content that it has collected on users to be the ‘black hole’ of the Internet because we are unaware where it is stored.  I was appalled when I discovered that Facebook stores nearly 800 pages of data about each user.  Varying from obvious details, such as your name, friends and date of birth to unexpected data, such as deleted messages, locations you have accessed and lists of comments, likes or ‘pokes’ you have made.  Just imagine the juicy details Facebook engineers witness on a daily basis. The next time you decide to leak personal details to the web, remember the black hole and the risks that coincide with it.


Nothing that you post on the internet will ever be private – one way or another, someone will be able to make it public.

Confessions of a Technology Addict


After reviewing the results from a poll in my Computers and Society course I found that a majority of my fellow classmates ruled that it would be either ‘Very Hard’ or ‘Hard’ to live without their laptop and phone for a week.  In other words, nearly 80% of the class is unable to function without these minor simulated devices for one measly week – which when you look at it on the wide spectrum of a lifetime, it’s not that long! Upon further research, I discovered there is a legitimate disorder developing called Disconnectivity Anxiety for technology addicts.  Dr. Jim Taylor, a psych professor at the University of Denver, describes this disorder as, “a persistent and unpleasant condition characterized by worry and unease caused by periods of technological disconnection from others”.  Admittedly, I too am a culprit of this disgrace and suffer from digital dependency.  My eyes are constantly fixated on my enslaving iPhone – but whose wouldn’t be when you have a whole other digital world in the palm of your hand?

Due to the development of a technology dependent trend during the current era, it is nearly impossible to survive without our innovative gadgets.  It appears that in recent civilization, a day without technology feels like a decade to those who are reliant upon it. If you look around the world, we are surrounded by technology… we eat, sleep and breathe technology to a point that is unhealthy.  I think it is safe to say modern society is addicted to technology and it is time for an intervention!

So… just how addicted to technology are we? 

Ultimately, this question could have an exponential answer, so I chose to focus on three basic sources of technology used in everyday environments; Smartphones, computers and the Internet.

Set on Smartphones

Confession #1: Research conducted by Nokia suggests that Smartphone users check their phones every six and a half minutes, averaging to 150 times daily. 

Staying connected has become an obsession for a majority of the world.  The other day an elder family friend of ours was discussing his frustration with one of his teenage workers.  He said every moment he has available (on the way to a job, on the way home, on his lunch and breaks), he was always on his phone and disconnected from the outside world.  I guess I annoyed him a little when I told him that was the norm of the general public and he should adapt to these cultural changes, because he began to curse our generation.  However, the reality is, it is not just the younger generation that has become digitally dependent; technology has spread like a virus to all members of society.

A study conducted by SecurEnvoy found that nearly two-thirds of our population suffers from a cell phone addiction called Nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia).  Symptoms associated with this phobia are: constantly checking your phone, anxiety about losing it, and constantly having your phone on.  Another international poll discovered that nearly 84% of North Americans are incapable to live a day without their Smartphone and many prefer to text than have a conversation in person.

Smartphones have changed the way our brain functions and how we act on a daily basis.  Phrases such as, “It’s been an hour and Steven still hasn’t answered my iMessage”, or “Why didn’t you like my picture on Instagram yet?” and the famous  “Andrew just opened my Snapchat and never responded”, have become way too familiar in modern society due to our constant connectivity in the Smartphone world.  Options available on iMessage and Blackberry Messenger such as ‘Received’ or ‘Read’ have eliminated freedom and privacy on one end while causing insecurities and anxiety on the other.  We need instant gratification and believe connecting with others via Smartphone will provide this for us, when it is apparent that it is creating a larger disconnect from the outside world.

Smartphones serve as a multifunctional device due to the high number of apps that are available to download.  Smartphones have integrated themselves into our daily routine, from the alarm set to wake you up, the weather update to help plan your outfit, to the GPS that guides you to your appointment – we have aimlessly become dependent on our Smartphones. The following video speaks loud volumes itself on just how addicted to our Smartphones we have become:

Crazy for Computers

Confession #2: An 18 year old boy passed away in Taiwan a few weeks ago after playing a computer game for 40 hours.

A study performed by Nielson found that on average, people are on their screens for 8.5 hours a day.    However, the use of computers is slowly declining as Smartphones and tablets begin to serve many of the same functions as a computer.  Nevertheless, it is safe to say that a majority of occupations in North America require a computer, whether you are a student, work in an office or even on an airplane. Heck, I would be unable to complete my assignment for this course without the use of a computer.  Computer systems run our lives in many aspects.  We have become reliant on computers to store documents, run special programming, connect us to the internet, even to operate our vehicle systems.  However, being addicted to the computer goes hand in hand with obsessing over the Internet.

Indulged in the Internet

Confession #3: A study commissioned by ComScore found that out of the 25.5 million Canadian Internet users, nearly 100% of them went online daily!

The Internet is an infinite dopamine loop; it is essentially limitless in terms of the information, connectivity and pleasure it provides us.  It is the primary outlet of everything: communication, entertainment, education, business and productivity.  It is the connection between computers, Smartphones, and tablets.  I personally find it compelling because the Internet has the power to connect every individual on the planet.  Currently, my one roommate is in Australia, while another is in Spain – the Internet has allowed me to stay connected with them, whether it is communicating via Skype, viewing their Instagram photos or checking their Twitter status updates (a.k.a. it’s hard not to be addicted when you’re connected!)

Nearly 80% of the North American population are Internet users. Due to the Internet’s convenience and high accessibility, we have become sucked into a digital realm where we yearn to be connected online.  Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a fairly recent diagnosis that is a behavioural infatuation to the web.  It has opened a door for further addictions such as online gambling, gaming sites or pornography.  I personally find myself struggling with my online shopping addiction, why go to the mall when I can shop out of the comfort of my home, in my pj’s, with a glass of wine in hand?

The most recent innovation and obsession in our current era is the social media world.  It has removed privacy from our lives completely. No doubt, if you have a Facebook account you also have a Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Pinterest account – and more social media sites are continuing to generate.  What is the purpose? Why do we feel the need to be connected online on every aspect?  The answer is clear to me… we are all addicted to technology.

…time for a Technology intervention?

Many would argue that technology addiction does not exist on the same level as alcohol or drugs, however, it is becoming increasingly more apparent that our era craves technology.  Never before would you imagine that our world would become so profound to digital dependency.  The need for digital devices has made society more vulnerable to reality – we are unable to adequately function without our connection to the digital world.  Perhaps a digital detox is needed to restore our balance. However, in my opinion, a majority of us are too far invested in our addiction to technology that no solution to reverse its effects seems feasible.



I am a Third Year Criminal Justice and Public Policy student at the University of Guelph.  This is my first blog I have written for the Computer and Society course.