“Social Media” and Our Youth

From a Sunday bulletin…

Because of the Center’s electronic publishing and online evangelical activities, I am somewhat familiar with the “social media.” The internet giant Facebook is now used by “901 million monthly active users at the end of March 2012,” or so they claim. Among those users are people in our community, including some of our youth. It bears repeating that any and all activity on Facebook is essentially of a public nature. That is, no matter how one’s “privacy settings” are adjusted, the medium is essentially a “social,” i.e., non-private, means of communication. The 3,500+ employees of Facebook certainly have access to users’ “private” data. Further, Facebook is free to use whatever photos users upload to Facebook. This is so because, in the words of Facebook’s Terms of Use, “you grant us [Facebook] a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” Such “content” would include photos you might consider “personal,” or from “private” functions. This means, among other things, that a photo of you that was taken at a party where you weren’t modestly dressed — and were even a bit “tipsy” — could be used by Facebook in one of their own ads, or by another company to which Facebook “sub-licensed” your embarrassing photo. While the likelihood that our youth will become unpaid Facebook models might not be very high, what is certain is the fact that such photos will cause genuine scandal to your “friends” on Facebook.

Just one more reason to live a good Catholic life, including a traditional code of modesty. Even if Facebook doesn’t see you, God does. But now that Facebook and similar social media are becoming more and more “omnipresent” and “omniscient,” private sins that used to stay private are becoming public, and Googleably so.

Wherever two or three are gathered with a smart phone, there is Mark Zuckerberg in your midst.

There are scads of reasons to have nothing to do with the Internet unless you actually need it (ubiquitous online porn being but one of these reasons). That aside, I strongly recommend that, if your children have Facebook accounts, you get one and insist that your children “friend” you. This will allow you to monitor their online activity. Knowing what your children do online is not “nosy”; it’s actually good parenting. More than once, I have corrected young people here for online immodesty. Parents ought to be doing this.

Young people may have no idea of the dangers of this medium. The unguarded use of Facebook has caused people to lose their jobs, be denied college admission, and even become the victims of rape and murder — like 19-year-old Jason Rodriguez and 18-year old Nona Belomesoff, whose murderers used Facebook to lure them in. Then there’s Thabo Bester, the South African “Facebook rapist.” If you think I’m exaggerating, Google “Facebook murder,” “Facebook killer,” “Facebook rape.”
What you say, post, upload, or “like” on Facebook is cached in many places. Removing your Facebook account will not erase it from these places.

Our youth need to be warned of such dangers from responsible adults.