Facebook – the world’s most popular social network. People use Facebook to connect with high school friends, co-workers, and other people in their network. Teens use Facebook to keep in touch with their friends, share memes and often document every minor aspect of their lives with pictures and statuses. Is this a good idea? Are we being swept up in a global Facebook obsession? Read on to learn about some of the pros and cons of Facebook.
What is Facebook?
Launched in 2004, Facebook was originally a network made by Harvard Collage students to connect with each other. It quickly exploded and broadened its network. Since the early days, a lot has changed: Groups, Pages, user-created lists of friend groups and integrated chat to name just a few changes. Facebook has since acquired other companies such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus VR. It is reported that Facebook currently has more than 1 billion active users, about 3 times more than the number of people who live in the USA. So, like it or not, Facebook is a big part of all of our lives. Despite this, people don’t always consider the pros and cons of Facebook. What does this mean for you?
Cons of Facebook
Lets start with some of the concerns that people have about social networking in general, and Facebook specifically:
Privacy has long been a concern for Facebook users and employees. As of 2008 Facebook removed a clause from its user Terms and Conditions that detailed the automatic expiry of deleted content. Meaning that Facebook can retain content deleted by the user.
During 2015 there was a number of complaints about users having their accounts wrongfully deleted or suspended by Facebook despite not having infringed on any specific terms, Facebook refused to reinstate these accounts without personal identification such as drivers licences or other IDs. Also during this time, and up to today, Facebook persistently prompts users to submit their personal information such as telephone numbers.
During 2008, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic filed a complaint against Facebook due to breaches of laws that protect personal information.
It was also pointed out by the New York Times that Facebook provides no mechanism for users to close their accounts. Because of this there is no way that you, the user, is able to permanently remove your information from Facebook.
There are also concerns over people making fake Facebook accounts in order to trick people or steal personal information. The best way to protect yourself against this is to only add people who you know.
Using Facebook regularly can be time consuming. This is a complaint that many parents have. You may want your child to play outside, but often they are glued to the computer monitor. According to Pew Research Center:
“One-in-three parents say they have had concerns or questions about their child’s technology use in the last year”
Facebook is available on mobile phones and other devices. This can make it difficult to get your children away from Facebook. Homework becomes an issue when social media consumes students’ time.
Facebook can be truly addictive, making you spend more time than you would like scrolling the news-feed. According to a study conducted in 2011, quitting social networking sites can be just as challenging as quitting cigarettes or alcohol.
Censorship and Freedom of Speech
Facebook has been involved in a few disputes regarding censorship. Policies that banned materials covering the Kashmir Freedom Movement and materials about the oppression of Kurds in Turkey have caused criticism of Facebook.
There have also been controversies over the banning of images showing breastfeeding.
The difficulty with these points is that, on one hand, Facebook is a company that is entitled to have user agreements and set their own standards and requirements for contents. On the other hand, Facebook has become so ubiquitous that it is treated as a public space, and therefore should carry the same rights and freedoms as such a space in the physical world would.
Bullying is a concern that many Facebook users encounter. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that occurs on the Internet, and can sometimes cause problems in person. Children can be mean to each other in chats, and sometimes post cruel statuses. Parents are concerned because the number of cases of children committing suicide due to cyberbullying on social networks is increasing. The British neuroscientist and baroness Susan Greenfield pointed out that there is a degree of hysteria over whether or not social networking sites are safe, but agreed they can have negative effects on young people.
There is insufficient research at the moment to determine whether Facebook has predisposed young people to ether bully or be bullied.
When a picture is uploaded to Facebook, it is public for the world to see. This is a concern for parents because their child’s picture can be accessed by anyone. All profile pictures are public, just as a cover page is public. So it is worth being extra careful with your choices for these two photos.
Susan Greenfield claims that Facebook is in part responsible for making a generation that is fixated on their self-image and need constant attention from their peers.
There is a possibility that, due to the longevity of Facebook content, pictures or posts can be embarrassing to you in the future. Teenagers may post pictures of their friends at parties and other places that can come back to haunt them later. These, if seen by the wrong people, could affect collage admissions or even job applications. Using the appropriate privacy settings on Facebook is vital to protect against this. Here is a comprehensive guide to your privacy settings.
Pros of Facebook
Now let’s look at some of the ways that Facebook can be fun, useful and a positive part of your life:
Easy to Use
Facebook is one of the easiest social media networks to use. With every update Facebook provide a tour for users to show them how to use the upgrades. Creating a Facebook profile is easy; the site suggests people you may know based on age, high school you attended, college, place of employment, and people with whom you have mutual friends.
Making the Connection
Facebook allows people to connect with friends and relatives who live far away. With new features such as video and voice calling, communicating with friends and family has never been easier.
So many relationships and friendships have depended on Facebook. For example, according to oddee.com, an Italian man called Alex Anfuso who was kidnapped by is own father at the age of 5 and taken to Egypt, managed to reconnect with his lost family 17 years later through Facebook. He posted:
“My name is Alex. I am looking for my family. I am looking for my mother.”
There are many touching stories like this that would have been impossible without the power of social networking.
Sharing is Caring
When Facebook is used correctly it can be empowering, educational, and fun. Facebook is a useful platform to share your ideas, thoughts, causes, and get feedback from other Facebook users with whom you have shared interests. You can hold an in-depth conversation and be notified every time another user comments or shares an idea. You can also share memorable photos with friends and family whenever you need to.
Being the #1 Fan
Alongside Twitter, Facebook is one of the main social networks that celebrities use to communicate with their fans. Facebook users can follow their favourite celebrities and comment on statuses they post. Many celebrities choose to share news updates, new releases, merchandise advertising and tour dates through Facebook.
Enhancing Social Skills
Facebook gives people the power to make friends and meet new people from all around the world. Social media have a powerful impact on a child’s life, and it can have a positive effect on their self-esteem. Isolation is a common issue that children in today’s society face. Fitting in is harder than it has ever been. Facebook allows your child to become friends with children who share the same interests. Having something in common with another person, regardless of the distance between you, is great. Being friends with people elsewhere in the world gives children the opportunity to learn about new cultures and traditions.
The pros and cons of Facebook in the classroom is a contentious issue. While it can be useful it also serves as a distraction. However their are some legitimate educational benefits to it. Classmates can work on homework assignments together and share ideas. Discussing school assignments are easy and convenient. Some teachers are starting to use Facebook to help students keep up with projects and homework assignments.
Promoting Your Business
Opening a business can be difficult. However, Facebook has tools that try to make it easier. Facebook allows business owners to create a business Facebook page to gain more customers and grow their business.
For a fee, Facebook allows you to customize an advertisement that describes your business, and add a picture for the world to see. Once the advertisement is approved, it will be visible to users who fall into the target audience you select. You can set your target audience by defining the age, location, and marital status of the type of person you would like to attract.
Good Way to Pass Time
When waiting for the bus, or at the Doctor’s office, or elsewhere, when boredom sets in it’s great to have a whole world of social interaction in your pocket. There are also many games you can download on your phone and play with your friends and family through Facebook.
Before you become a user, it is helpful to be aware of the pros and cons of Facebook. Facebook is a place where you can broaden your horizons and learn different things. However it can also be a place where all sorts of bullying and vapid self-image obsessions take place. When you become a Facebook user, you have control over your account. Only add the people you wish to be friends with and take care with your privacy settings.