Despite launching as recently as 2004 Facebook has quickly become the biggest social network on the internet. It has more than a billion members of whom half log in daily. It is one of the biggest companies in the world with its market value passing $100 billion in the summer of 2013.(1) Without any doubt, is has had a tremendous effect upon its users, the question is if it’s beneficial or not. Proponents argue that it enhances socialization and serves as a platform to spread information among numerous individuals while opponents believe its very existence is detrimental to children making them more prone to anxiety and depression. Early in 2013, reports suggested that Facebook lost nine million active monthly users in the U.S and two million in Britain, showing that many think that Facebook now has too much of a negative impact on their lives.
With Facebook being the social network of choice for so many and having an immense amount of influence over how we interact the question of whether the social network is beneficial is of vital importance.
(1) Brian Womack, ‘Facebook Market Value Tops $100 Billion Amid Mobile Push’, Bloomberg, 26 August 2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-26/facebook-market-value-tops-100-billion-amid-mobile-ad-push.html
One of the most crucial elements in any child's development is the ability to socialize with peers. By having a large circle of friends to talk to and share interests, the child gains trust, self-esteem and self-confidence. If you have people to talk to when you have a problem, it is much easier to overcome any problems.
Facebook and social networks in general help teenagers on multiple levels to maintain and expand their circle of friends. Firstly, it lets you remain in touch with friends even if you are very far apart. As we live in an increasingly globalized world, friend circles tend to be broken up very easily. As a result, individuals need to be able to keep in touch in spite of the physical distance. Facebook enables them to do that. (1)
Secondly, by allowing people with shared opinions, hobbies or interests to gather, social networks allow users to expand their circle of friends, something that is more applicable the bigger the social network. Thirdly, it allows young people to spend more time with the friends and people they already know through chat conversations, shared photos or status updates. As a result, people who are engaged on these social networks have more self esteem, more confidence in them, feel more appreciated and tend to be happier in general due to their wide circle of friends. (2)
(1) Keith Wilcox and Andrew T. Stephen “Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control” Journal of Consumer Research, 2012 http://www.jcr-admin.org/files/pressPDFs/112712180022_Stephen_Article.pdf
(2) Brittany Gentilea, Jean M. Twengeb, Elise C. Freemanb, W. Keith Campbella “The effect of social networking websites on positive self-views: An experimental investigation” 2012 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563212001409
On this point, there are two levels of analysis which will demonstrate that, at the end of the day, Facebook has a detrimental effect on one’s social abilities.
First of all, of course having a lot of friends has numerous advantages and it is undoubtedly beneficial to one’s development, but being active on a social network isn’t an indispensable prerequisite for this. As an individual, you can meet, talk, connect and share feelings and emotions in real life with your friends without any problems. People nowadays are not more socially bonded than before the appearance of Facebook and other social networks, because what Facebook did was merely shifting the face-to-face socialization to an online version of it. Moreover, you don’t need the “Rock Fans” group on Facebook in order to meet new people who are also interested in rock music, as you have real rock events and concerts where you can meet with people with whom you have shared interests and thus expand your friend group.
Secondly, when using social networks as a tool to socialize, teenagers tend to rely too much on them, getting comfortable chatting behind a glass monitor, but this can mean having problems exiting this comfort-zone. This happens as you feel less exposed if you are not talking to someone in person, but when you are forced to socialize in the real world you feel uncomfortable and awkward. As a result, their ability to socialize is diminished even more.
Undoubtedly, one of the most important aspects which will influence your efforts to improve your life is your ability to take advantage of every opportunity which comes up. Obviously, one of the, if not the, best way to do this is to stay connected with the world around you, this enables you to be able to quickly find out about job opportunities, sporting competitions or social events in your area. Facebook created and developed an efficient, extremely widely visited platform on which millions of users can get in touch with each other. This can prove to be an extremely useful tool both for companies or event planners and direct customers. No matter if we are talking about Google's new hiring policy or Toyota's new discount, an upcoming music festival or a football tournament for amateur players, Facebook is informing the individuals about these events, keeping them connected with their community.
Social networks are more efficient to serving this purpose than other more conventional means like TV commercials because it is free. A very good example of this is the Kony 2012 campaign, which informed the people about the atrocities that happened in Uganda at the time, mainly relying only on social media. The Youtube video telling its story has more than 98 million views and also there were more posts on Facebook about Kony on March 6th and 7th than even Apple’s new iPad or TV releases. (1) No matter if we talk about TV ads, radio commercials or billboards, the price that has to be paid in order to promote an event is a big drawback for anyone who wants to inform the population. As a result, Facebook as with other social media is the online, cheap, efficient equivalent to an info point.
(1) Kyle Willis “Kony 2012 Social Media Case Study “, March 8, 2012 http://notothequo.com/kony-2012-social-media-case-study-stats-and-insights/
It is true that a society in which information is widely available to the public is desirable, but what must be recognized that this argument of “social platform publicity” encounters two main problems.
First of all, unless your information is lucky enough to go viral if you really want efficient online advertising you will have to pay for it, even when it comes to social networks. “When Facebook launched its log-out screen ads, reports suggested it was charging $700,000 for them, but in reality they came bundled with a homage ad commitment, too. Buyers say they’re now selling log-out ads standalone for around $100,000.”(1). As a result, you can hardly call them “free”.
Secondly, online advertising comes merely as a back-up or as an addition to full-time campaign ads. No matter what kind of event we are talking about, if it is of general interest, the information will be distributed to the population. It will be either promoted by the company itself, if we are talking about a massive price discount for the new Toyota, or by the local or national media, if we are talking about a concert or a sporting event. The information will be more efficiently transmitted through advertising mechanisms, as this allows the targeting of certain groups of individuals who are interest in those events rather than relying on people stumbling onto a Facebook page. For example posting an ad announcing a new soccer competition in a sports magazine will be more effective as we know the readers will be interested. There are other means which serve the purpose of promoting information, the promoters will pick the best ones, which may or may not mean Facebook.
(1) Jack Marshall “What Online Ads Really Cost”, February 22, 2013 http://digiday.com/publishers/what-online-ads-really-cost/
Social networks aid our society on multiple levels, one of them being the democratic process. This happens both in autocracies, where the democratic process is basically nonexistent and in western liberal democracies where Facebook acts as a megaphone for the will of the population.
Firstly, when talking about oppressive regimes, Facebook allows the population to organize themselves in massive protests which can, in time, overthrow the government. This is of particular importance as the population cannot organize protests "offline" in the real world, because government forces would quickly find them and stop the protests before they even started. These people need a safe house, where government intervention is minimized, so that they can spread the news and organize the protests. The online environment is the best options. We have seen this happening in the Arab Spring(1), Brazil (2), Turkey(3) as well as for protests in democracies as in Wisconsin(4)
For western liberal democracies too Facebook plays a very important role in aiding the democratic process. Even in a democracy the government often engages in unpopular policies. Unfortunately, as we are talking about countries with tens of millions of people, citizens often feel they can’t make a difference. Luckily, here's where Facebook comes in. It connects all the people who share the same disapproval of government actions, removing the feeling that you can do nothing as there is no one backing you. Millions can come together to voice their opinions. Therefore there is more likely to be dissent. Moreover, the internet allowed individuals to start massive campaigns of online petition gathering, which they will later use as an irrefutable argument to the government showing the desire for change. There are a lot of sites, one of the biggest being Avaaz.org which facilitates this process, which use Facebook as a medium through which the petition is shared and so grows.
(1) Sonya Angelica Diehn “Social media use evolving in Egypt”, DW , 04.07.2013 http://www.dw.de/social-media-use-evolving-in-egypt/a-16930251
(2) Caroline Stauffer “Social media spreads and splinters Brazil protests”, Reuters ,June 22, 2013 http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/social-media-spreads-splinters-brazil-protests-6C10418084
(3) “Activists in Turkey use social media to organize, evade crackdown As protests continue across Turkey against the government” http://fsrn.org/audio/activists-turkey-use-social-media-organize-evade-crackdown-protests-continue-across-turkey-aga
There are immense problems with using Facebook to facilitate protests in oppressive regimes. Firstly, due to the anonymity of users, it would be extremely easy for government forces to disguise themselves as being protesters and find out future protest locations, thus allowing them to be one step ahead every time to crush the protest before it starts. Second of all, if all of these fail, the government could always shut down ISPs (Internet Service Providers), exactly in the way the Egyptian forces did. Their mistake was that they didn’t shut them down soon enough, but it won’t be repeated by future oppressive governments as they have the Arab Spring’s example.(1)
Surely, it is of great importance that people express their opinions through any means possible, even through mass protest. For this reason, over time western societies were shaped to encourage any discontented individual to express his or her view. We allowed the media to be free, it being the so called “fourth estate” due to its ability to pinpoint and underline any problem regarding government policies or actions. There is no need for Facebook or Twitter or any kind of social network to reveal any discontent in the population as we already have the media who is doing this. All the news agencies and TV stations are always looking for the sensational, looking for places where the government has failed in order to attract audience. One of the best ways of doing this is by polling and trying to reveal any group of individuals who were either discriminated or hurt by the government. As a result, if there are the necessary reasons for people to start protesting, we shouldn’t worry about people not finding out that other individuals share their views as we have the media, one of the most influential elements of the society who is actively trying to do that.
(1) Marko Papic and Sean Noonan “Social Media as a Tool for Protest” ,Stratfor, February 3, 2011 http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110202-social-media-tool-protest
 For more on this see ‘This House would use foreign aid funds to research and distribute software that allows bloggers and journalists in non-democratic countries to evade censorship and conceal their online activities’ and ‘This House would incentivise western companies to build software that provides anonymity to those involved in uprisings’
Every single day, there are millions of users sharing photographs, messages and comments across Facebook. Unfortunately, this type of “online socialization” that Facebook has initiated is nothing but detrimental to the teenagers, the most frequent users of the platform. The emotion which is most common when staying online is envy. “Endlessly comparing themselves with peers who have doctored their photographs, amplified their achievements and plagiarised their bons mots can leave Facebook’s users more than a little green-eyed.”(1)
Not only do they get envious, but they also lose their self esteem. As a result, they have the tendency to be isolated and find it harder to socialize and make new friends due to the bad impression they have for themselves. In a poll, 53 per cent of the respondents said the launch of social networking sites had changed their behaviour - and of those, 51 per cent said the impact had been negative.(2 ) One study also backs this statistics up by finding that the more the participants used the site, the more their life satisfaction levels declined.(3)
In conclusion, daily use of social networks has a negative effect on the health of all children and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.(4)
(1) “Facebook is bad for you”, The Economist, Aug 17th 2013 http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21583593-using-social-network-seems-make-people-more-miserable-get-life
(2) Laura Donnelly “Facebook and Twitter feed anxiety, study finds” The Telegraph, 08 Jul 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/9383609/Facebook-and-Twitter-feed-anxiety-study-finds.html
(3) “Facebook use 'makes people feel worse about themselves' “, BBC News, 15 August 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23709009
(4) Larry Rose ”Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impacts on Kids“ American Psychological Association August 6, 2011 http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/social-kids.aspx
Facebook enhances people’s lives and brings numerous advantages. Facebook provides information and social support through the creation of a network of friends; sometimes this communication will bring them into contact with material that makes them envious. The need then it to focus on the things in Facebook that are positive. It is clear that people prefer a Facebook which is concentrated around subjects of interest, friends’ updates and funny pictures rather than one which is constantly reminding them about their failures or about their acne.
Therefore, users will try to block any type of harmful information, as generally you dislike being reminded about things that make you feel bad about yourself. At the end of the day, no matter of user, the accent will always be on meeting new people, having fun and making the connection with people that you already know stronger rather than searching for reasons to be envious on other people. If life satisfaction declines when using Facebook more often then users will log in to Facebook less often, but this is far from being a reason to abandon social networks entirely. Facebook is a commercial enterprise: if it is bad for people’s life satisfaction they will vote with their feet. At the moment it is clearly perceived as being positive.
Facebook is becoming more and more integrated into our lives, but unfortunately the uncertainty of who is at the other end of the computer is proving to be a massive threat to our mental and physical safety.
First of all, undoubtedly, rape is one of the most serious and unforgiveable crimes anyone can commit, as it leaves permanent physical and mental scars on women. Unfortunately, Facebook is used by troubled men to take advantage of naive women. They use Facebook in order to get in touch with their victims (often posing as someone who he is not), and after they get to know each other, after he gained the victims trust he deceives her into meeting him, a mistake she’ll regret forever. As physical integrity is one of the rights most fundamental rights, and as Facebook is facilitating the violation of this right, it is absolutely clear that these social networks are detrimental to the society.(1)(2)
Secondly, another level on which Facebook is harmful is cyber bullying. It affects many adolescents and teens on a daily basis. Cyber bullying involves using technology to bully or harass another person. Sending mean Facebook messages or threats to a person, spreading rumours online or posting hurtful or threatening messages on social networking sites are just a few of the ways in which a lot of children get bullied every single day.
“Despite the potential damage of cyber bullying, it is alarmingly common among adolescents and teens. According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:
Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying. More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.”(3)
(1) Justin Davenport “Hunt for ‘Facebook rapists’ before they can strike again” London Evening Standard, 15 November 2012 http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/hunt-for-facebook-rapists-before-they-can-strike-again-8319946.html
(2) “Two men gang-rape girl in Kota after befriending her on Facebook”, Times of India, Aug 21, 2013 http://m.timesofindia.com/city/jaipur/2-men-gang-rape-girl-in-Kota-after-befriending-her-on-Facebook/articleshow/21948732.cms?intenttarget=no
(3) Bullying Statistics http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/cyber-bullying-statistics.html
It is absolutely regrettable that men use Facebook in order take advantage of certain women, but we must not forget that because of these very situations Facebook and many NGO’s initiated campaigns to prevent these kind of tragedies happening again(1). Such campaigns have informed thousands of women about the dangers of meeting strangers, both the virtual world and in the real one, and how to avoid them. These campaigns both help women avoid the threat in the first place and encourage them to make sure they are protected, for example by carrying pepper spray, so at the end of the day, a significant number of women are now more protected against being rape because of these social networks. Facebook has clearly not increased the incidence of rape as statistics (2) show that the number of rape cases has dropped dramatically since the start of the world wide web.
Cyber bullying is potentially a problem. On this level too, Facebook recognized the possibility of certain teenagers posting harmful or offending information about another party so it took action in order to try and stop this from happening in the future. As Facebook officials are declaring, they will “update the training for the teams that review and evaluate reports of hateful speech or harmful content on Facebook. To ensure that our training is robust, we will work with legal experts. We will increase the accountability of the creators of content that does not qualify as actionable hate speech but is cruel or insensitive by insisting that the authors stand behind the content they create “(2). Facebook has an entire department to try to prevent such cyber bullying. Moreover Facebook is comparatively secure from cyber bullying compared to some sites; it is not anonymous and users can unfriend people and prevent people who they don’t know from accessing their profile.
(1) Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AntiRapezeroTolerance
(2) Federal Bureau of Investigation http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-1
For many students, the constant flow of news, status updates, pictures and comments which comes through Facebook every single hour is proving to be a very distracting, which not surprisingly affects their educational progress. It negatively impacts learning. Studies show that students who checked in on social networks while studying had grades that were 20% lower than the grades of those who didn’t.(1)
A 20% difference in grades can be the difference from being awarded a scholarship at a prestigious university at being obliged to enrol in the community college, or very easily between passing and failing. Education is one of the most important things in anybody’s life as it greatly affects future prospects. Of course socialising is important as well but we should try to avoid one negatively affecting the other.
(1) Julie D. Andrews “Is Facebook Good Or Bad For Students? Debate Roils On” April 28, 2011 http://allfacebook.com/is-facebook-good-or-bad-for-students-debate-roils-on_b41357
(2) Larry Rose ”Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impacts on Kids“ American Psychological Association August 6, 2011 http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/social-kids.aspx
On this point, it may be true that children who get distracted easily use Facebook as an excuse not to study, but that doesn’t mean that social networks are the cause of this phenomenon. These children tend to use them as social networks are very accessible. Almost every single moment you are surrounded by technology that can connect to social networking sites; a smartphone, a laptop or a computer, which you can use to log in on Facebook. Even if it weren’t for these social networks, those kids would likely still be getting 20% worse grades than other students, as they would just find other activities to replace it with. There will be no change in their mentality, perception of learning or process of decision making.
If the student is using Facebook at least there is a chance they are using it productively, for example, by participating in a Facebook group created by a professor for students of a particular class, then the social network may have a positive influence.
Moreover, Facebook makes students feel socially connected, with a greater sense of community. This can be beneficial in boosting students’ self-esteem. Past studies have shown that students who are active on Facebook are more likely to participate in extra-curricular activities.(1)
(1) Julie D. Andrews “Is Facebook Good Or Bad For Students? Debate Roils On” April 28, 2011 http://allfacebook.com/is-facebook-good-or-bad-for-students-debate-roils-on_b41357
(1) Keith Wilcox and Andrew T. Stephen “Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control” Journal of Consumer Research, 2012
(2) Brittany Gentilea, Jean M. Twengeb, Elise C. Freemanb, W. Keith Campbella “The effect of social networking websites on positive self-views: An experimental investigation” 2012
(3) “Facebook is bad for you”, The Economist, Aug 17th 2013
(4) Laura Donnelly “Facebook and Twitter feed anxiety, study finds” The Telegraph, 08 Jul 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/9383609/Facebook-and-Twitter-feed-anxiety-study-finds.html
(5) “Facebook use 'makes people feel worse about themselves' “, BBC News, 15 August 2013
(6) Larry Rose ”Social Networking’s Good and Bad Impacts on Kids“ American Psychological Association August 6, 2011
(7) Justin Davenport “Hunt for ‘Facebook rapists’ before they can strike again” London Evening Standard, 15 November 2012
(8) “Two men gang-rape girl in Kota after befriending her on Facebook”, Times of India, Aug 21, 2013
(9) Bullying Statistics
(12) Marko Papic and Sean Noonan “Social Media as a Tool for Protest” ,Stratfor, February 3, 2011
(13) Sonya Angelica Diehn “Social media use evolving in Egypt”, DW , 04.07.2013
(14) Caroline Stauffer “Social media spreads and splinters Brazil protests”, Reuters ,June 22, 2013
(15) “Activists in Turkey use social media to organize, evade crackdown As protests continue across Turkey against the government”
(17) Julie D. Andrews “Is Facebook Good Or Bad For Students? Debate Roils On” April 28, 2011
(18) Federal Bureau of Investigation
(19) Kyle Willis “Kony 2012 Social Media Case Study “, March 8, 2012
(20) Jack Marshall “What Online Ads Really Cost”, February 22, 2013