#When We’re Not Anonymous Anymore

Michelle S. Lee ’16
Assistant Opinions Editor

The minute Facebook and Instagram ban us from actively searching for drug hashtags is the minute when we need to reflect on our priorities, specifically in the context of the widely distributed and decreasingly private social media sphere.

The new ban was instituted in response to an alarming rate of drug exchanges blatantly taking place on Instagram, where people posed in pictures with the drugs they were selling in hopes to create business in the online market. As of a few days ago, Facebook (which bought Instagram last year) issued a statement stating that users are now not allowed to search for the names of these drugs. And why shouldn’t they?

In a country that hardlines freedom of speech as a medium for all kinds of expressions, it is no surprise that such a ban hadn’t taken place before. Even if the drugs themselves are illegal, roundabout mentions of them seems to pass. Only a country that is pro-freedom of speech could endorse shows like Breaking Bad or put marijuana leaf designs in retail clothing stores targeted toward young teenagers.

After all, what social media site that focuses on “connecting the world” and sharing mostly photos of food, clothing and selfies would conceive of their platform being utilized by teenage (or just barely adult) pot dealers or molly distributors? I’m sure that wasn’t the first thought in my mind when I created an Instagram account. But it’s what we occasionally see when we enter this social media world. Drug deals aren’t the only posts we see on Instagram – pictures of bongs, clips of people taking hits, etc., are not particularly rare on the average user’s newsfeed. Even on popular blogging sites like Tumblr, we see drug use glamorized under the label of an underground “hipster” culture.

Though the Internet may still be considered a “new” form of social interaction, our generation has grown up with it. The Internet isn’t anonymous anymore, and every action we do can and will be traced back to us. We need accounts that have our personal information for all major websites now, and with the emergence of sites like the aforementioned Facebook and Instagram, we know we are sharing within our private networks, where everyone knows who we are.

At this point, we should understand the repercussions of oversharing on the Internet – from deleting all those not-so-flattering middle school photos to protecting ourselves from identity theft on Facebook. And we need to keep in mind that if we do anything illegal, we shouldn’t be waving it around on a website that clearly displays information that can be only associated with us. These are all actions that could come back to bite us one day, especially just a few years down the line when we’re in the working world and our professional image takes precedence over our personal one.

So keep your drug habit to yourself, or at the very least don’t hashtag it. Our younger population seems to forget that no matter how fun it all might be, the reason why the searches are being banned is because it’s illegal. Not underage, but, for the most part, straight up against the law. Our obsession with glamorizing a crazy lifestyle is all well and good (if not a little vain, but who isn’t nowadays?), but it’s when a post blurs the line between legality that you should really think twice about putting it on an app that can so easily be linked back to you, long after it leaves your mind and you forget why it was so important to upload that in the first place.

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