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What Society Needs to Fully Embrace Social Media
By: Christine Geraci
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Thanks to mobile technology, Facebook check-ins, and movies like "Project X," social media has completely changed the very definition of a run-of-the-mill house party. In the blink of an eye, a party invitation can go viral, and a simple check-in can bring on a mob scene. And the authorities — namely police, parents, and school officials — aren't too happy.
 
We can't say we're surprised. And to be fair, the concerns are legitimate: Information, whether true or not, can spread like wildfire via social media, and the powers that be often can't keep up. 
 
But at the same time, we have trouble with such complaints. What are these concerned parties suggesting, that people shouldn't use social media? That location-based features be banned? 
 
Frankly, it's not the social media that's going to have to conform to these groups of people charged with maintaining order. It's the other way around. 
 
In a weird way, it reminds us of the 1950s, when rock 'n roll started to become popular. The powers that be didn't like that either. It got the young folks too excited, too difficult to control. But our culture and society adjusted. 
 
The same will happen in this case. And to make it happen, we will need:
 
Policies. We've talked a lot about how important it is for organizations to have good social media policies, whether they use social media for their own business purposes or not. Same goes for parents, who must take an active role in knowing how their children use social media. People need to be clear about what's expected of them. Drafting and agreeing upon a set of guidelines that clearly sets standards and spells out ramifications takes away uncertainty and helps those in charge maintain order. 
 
Education. Everyone — young people especially — needs to understand the ramifications their actions via social media could potentially have, not just on themselves, but on others. They need to know that colleges and workplaces are watching them. They need to know that something they post on Facebook could get them in trouble at school. Yes, different philosophies for proper social media use exist out there, but there are common-sense guidelines that should be taught. Arguably, the earlier the better. Social media education should be as second-nature as health education in our schools, and part of every new employee orientation and quarterly or annual performance review in every workplace.
 
Experience. You can't criticize or lament that which you know nothing about. Even if the idea of opening a Facebook or Twitter account makes you want to puke, you may not be able to avoid it. If you have kids, or work in law enforcement or education, then you need to understand the tools people are using to communicate with one another. If you do not make this effort then you really can't complain.
 
What else do you think needs to happen for our society's law enforcement and education infrastructures to keep up with the power of social media?


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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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