Social media is a great tool with dozens, if not hundreds, of legitimate, quality uses. It's an excellent tool for networking, doing all kinds of research, sharing important information, managing collaborative projects and so forth.
But unfortunately, that's not all it's used for. Not by a long shot.
The fact is, far too many people use these vast social networks not as a force for good, but for evil -- or at least the stupid and annoying. Here are the five least legitimate uses for social networking.
5) Oversharing : When I say oversharing, I don't mean accidentally telling the world about the salacious details of your skeezy one-night stand. That's actually kind of amusing. No, I'm talking about the oft-mentioned, rarely seen and always irritating practice of telling the world about every little detail of your day. "Just had a great cup of coffee. Two sugars, splash of whole milk. Booyah!" "Man, are these socks comfortable. Should have bought two packages. Oh well, back to Target for me!" "Time to trim my fingernails. Right index finger's nail is almost two millimeters long! LOL!" If that's you, stop it. No one cares (with the possible exception of No. 2 on this list) and you're giving the rest of us social media users a bad name with your aggressive stupidity.
4) SPAM: Not that there's ever a legitimate venue for spam, but if there was, social media is emphatically not it. Social media is about building your network through cultivating relationships with people who have similar interests, backgrounds, etc. There's no quicker way to torpedo that than by flooding us with a barrage of ads for some product. Plus, it's just stupid. All it does is get you dumped. If you don't get dumped the second you send the first spam, guess what? You're "friends" with another spammer/robot. Stick to e-mail: We're forced to put up with it there and are used to it.
3) Get Rich! QUICK!: This is a close cousin to the spammer, but different enough that it warrants its own, special mention. I've seen more than a few real people who are using their social media network to recruit for some Ponzi scheme, tweet sketchy affiliate links or try to hoover up as many followers as possible for some other shady way to "MAKE HUNDRED$$$ ONLINE! DAILY!" This is no way to win friends and influence people. It's aggravating, and even if I've known you for twenty years, it gets you stuck on my ignore list.
2) Stalking: Social media is, unfortunately, a really great way to stalk people. Whether it's obsessively poring over the ex's wall to see if she's seeing someone new or surreptitiously following the tweetstream of the barista you're crushing on in search of an angle to use when chatting her up, it's pretty damn creepy. And when you take it to the next level and use whatever knowledge you have of your target to break into their accounts and read their private messages, see their hidden photos, etc? Now you're reaching into felony territory, friend! I imagine it's really only a matter of time before we hear about a serial killer who's choosing his victims via Facebook. But hey, at least those people that insist on posting about every mundane event of their day (see No. 5) have an appreciative audience!
1) Meeting underage girls/guys: At least until that theoretical Facebook killer emerges, this takes the cake as the worst, least legitimate use of social networking. And while it probably doesn't happen with anywhere near the frequency that a show like To Catch a Predator might lead you to believe, I think we can all agree (well, all of us except for NAMBLA members) that any time it happens is a time too many. Besides, speaking of To Catch a Predator, if there's one thing that show has taught me, it's that if you meet a fourteen-year-old into older dudes online, odds are good it's actually Chris Hansen. At this point, those predators are probably better off going old school and just hanging out in playgrounds or at the mall.