In March his year, in my role as STEM Ambassador, I am lucky enough to be giving a guest lecture at Falkirk Science Festival for 16-18 year olds. The topic is “Social Media: a force for good or evil”.
Sitting down to write the blurb for the lecture, I quickly found that finding the words to appeal to this age range was more challenging than I had expected. In particular the first draft highlighted to me that I’m not as “cool” as I once (thought) I was. However by putting on bermuda shorts and untucking my t-shirt I found some inspiration, and words started to flow. This is what I came up with…
Social Media: A force for good or evil?
Has your mum or dad ever “friended” you on Facebook? Have they commented on your status updates, subtly broadcasting their presence to your friends? Did this change what you chose to share in your posts? Or do you have other places to post more fun content which will escape their prying eyes like SnapChat, Tumblr, WeChat or WhatsApp?
What if you discovered that these places weren’t as hidden from your parents view as you thought? What if you discovered that Mum or Dad secretly had access to a stockpile of every message and every photo that you have ever posted in any app you have ever used? Would it make you think twice before posting again?
All of your status updates, tweets, posts and other social media interactions will be subject to social media analysis. It can be thought of as hidden armies of mums and dads reading and judging each one of your online interactions. This analysis can be used for great good – but it can also be used for considerable evil. The perpetrators are companies, governments, criminal organisations and even individuals.
In this talk we will explore some of the most exciting and most sinister uses of your social media data – data generated by interactions between you and your friends. We will ask whether or not we are able to protect ourselves from such prying eyes. The big question is… will you ever use social media in the same way again?