Dr Andrea Bergstrom, a professor at Coastal Carolina University, came to speak to our school about social media. She got her PhD in communications at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2011. Since then, she has been a researcher at CCU studying media and its effect on human behavior. In the world of the internet, she warned students, there are three key points to remember: safety, privacy, and thinking critically.
Internet safety is more than just not meeting with strangers. You should never give anyone your username or password, even if they’re your friend, because you never know what they could do with it. “If somebody sends a mean message from your account, you can get in trouble for it.” She warned students, sharing with them the story of a college student who was expelled after a friend used his account for nefarious purposes. She also said that giving away any information about yourself- whether it’s your full name, your address, or even just a blurry picture- can lead to people tracking you down. Even if you think you’re being careful, small clues can add up until someone knows exactly who you are and where you live.
Once you post something online, it never goes away. “You don’t control your information anymore.” Dr Bergstrom explained. “Even if you delete it, you never know who’s taken a screenshot.” She warned students that their future depends on what they post online; from college admissions boards to potential employers, everyone has the power to do a background check. As a general rule, she advised that “if you wouldn’t want your parents to see it, you shouldn’t post it.”
“Have you ever looked something up or liked a post, and then the next day you see an ad for that exact same thing?” She asked the students, and almost everyone nodded. “You’re like, ‘whoah, it’s magic!’ Nope, it’s capitalism.” She explained how websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, can share your search history with potential advertisers. If you buy something that’s been advertised to you, such as from a sponsored post, you never know who is benefiting from your money. Despite her warnings, Dr Bergstrom acknowledged that the internet can be a very useful tool- so long as you’re careful.