Facebook supplies Internet users an easy way to do all of those things. Its biggest advantage is the fact that it is user-friendly. But Facebook is not all good news. There is a negative side to the Facebook phenomenon.
The Disadvantages of Facebook
One negative example of the social impact of computing comes from an article reported in the mainstream media entitled "Facebook 'friend'," in which we learn how the social networking site Facebook has become both a place for boasting and bullying: "For millions of people across the world it is a useful way of catching up with friends. But the social networking site Facebook can also be used for more sinister purposes. In 2009 Notts Police recorded 28 incidents of harassment involving the site -- a figure which shot up 50% to 42 last year" (Sherdley, 2011). Instances of harassment on Facebook are, according to the report, on the rise.
The article tells of Azundah Brown, recently put in prison "for harassing a fellow student on the site" (Sherdley). His victim was Alex Kimberley who accepted his friend request on Facebook. Brown was "on a four-year scholarship program from Nigeria," when Kimberley met him in person at a location near the college campus one evening by sheer chance. She accepted him as a friend to be nice, but immediately he began posting sexually explicit and slanderous comments about her on her "Wall," which "could be read by friends and family" (Sherdley).
Two other friends of Kimberley also came forward with evidence of Brown's harassment: comments sent via text messaging asking for sex. The evidence from Kimberley's "Wall" and her friends' phone, as well as testimony from another person that said he had groped her in a lift, was enough to convict Brown. This is one example of the way in which social computing can have a negative impact.
In 2008, Sladjana Vidovic committed suicide by tying "one end of a rope around her neck and the other around a bed post" and throwing herself out her bedroom window (Barr, 2010). She was a high school student in Ohio, but born in Croatia. She had a heavy accent. The bullies at school called her "Slutty Jana," and laughed at the way her body looked in its open casket (Barr). Such an incident is horrific enough to read about, let alone to meditate upon. Yet, the fact is there: bullying happens -- and it happens on Facebook, where Sladjana and teens like her have faced seriously bullying and resorted to drastic measures (such as suicide) to escape the persistent, nagging onslaught of social belittlement.
The suicide of Phoebe Prince echoes the one of Sladjana: another high school girl bullied beyond endurance. In a world where social networking is everything, such social slighting can be devastating. "Oh, for a world of brave hearts who'll stand up to bullies. I'll never forget in my own high school when the big, tough football star rescued a girl who was being harassed by four or five boys," says Margery Eagan (2010). Eagan may be right -- but on a social networking forum like Facebook where real-life heroes are physically absent (and only allowed to make their presence known by way of blurbs on a "Wall," one senses that the Facebook forum is as unrealistic a place for young adults to socialize as a dream world constructed in their own heads. Facebook only acts as a corner into which teens may be backed if they know no other means of dealing with peers. Such, at least, are the disadvantages of Facebook. While it emphasizes social networking, it offers no immunity to social slighting -- and gives insecure teens no protection against bullies and peers who desire to use the site as a means of attacking others. The pressure to "friend" everyone can turn into an unwillingness to "unfriend" peers who prove harmful.
How Facebook Has Changed Society
The rise of social media in the 21st century has impacted everything from the way we educate to the way we interact. Our perceptions of reality are informed to some extent by what is seen and heard on social networking sites such as Facebook, and the way in which we ourselves are conditioned has been decried by many. The evolution of Facebook and social media technology and influence over the past decade has certainly helped shape our economic, social, and political history.
Facebook is the biggest social networking site on the Internet and has allowed information to spread more quickly than ever before. Facebook has reshaped the way organizations operate, the way universities teach, the way entertainment is viewed, and the way people communicate. Such a tool is used by outsider politicians such as Ron Paul to develop a serious and loyal following, by celebrities such Ashton Kutcher to promote events, and by journalists like Matt Taibbi to raise awareness about the current economic crisis our nation is currently undergoing. Facebook is unlike any media we have ever witnessed before -- and its power is being utilized by governments, advertisers, and revolutionaries alike.
The power of the Internet site is new to the world. Previously, media influence was limited to programming. The power of the media had been used by politicians and political groups to espouse doctrine, but advertisers did not really tap into the power of the media (and corporations did not really began to employ public relations men) until Eddie Bernays (nephew of Sigmund Freud) began to follow in his uncle's footsteps and link sex with control in the minds' of advertisers: Bernays "took what he learned by cranking out propaganda during World War I and applied it to the nascent science of advertising" (Jones, 2000, p. 253). What he had learned was that citizens could be manipulated by the methods used by propagandists -- and that advertisers had to employ the same means: what Bernays brought to the game however was the solid fact that sex sells. Advertising suddenly went sexy in a big way. Facebook, during its early life, was free of advertising -- a point which drew millions of users to its site. Now that it has been monetized (allowed advertising on its pages), user complaints have risen. Facebook, a place where they could go to get away from the world, had suddenly sold out.
Has the rise and influence of modern media like Facebook helped or hurt the citizenry of our nation? That question is put before Clay Shirky and Evgeny Morozov (2010) in their discussion about Internet freedom: "Is the Internet a medium of emancipation and of revolution -- or a tool of control and repression? Did Twitter and Facebook stoke the flames of rebellion in Iran, or did they help the authorities unmask the rebels?" Such questions are part of a larger discussion concerning the role of media in political and social networking. Yet, even within the context of the discussion, "You very quickly get this kind of vertigo, where you think you're asking a question about Twitter, and suddenly you realize you're asking a question about, say, Hayek" (Shirky). What this means is that talking about Facebook can be like opening an enormous can of worms -- one cannot help but launch into a discussion that includes the visions of Huxley and Orwell. One is compelled to examine the role of Big Brother on sites like Facebook.
Indeed, Morozov goes on to say that the government has more interest in watching Facebook and Twitter than in blocking it -- because both networks give public access to private information, which could be beneficial to a government looking to root out any open rebellion. The same is true in 1984 -- the screens work two ways: they allow both the citizen to see and the government to watch. The employer who wants to know what his employees are actually thinking may get a real glimpse of it through social media -- but how he reacts is what will reflect upon him.
Language is also changing as a result of "facebooking." According to Guy Merchant (2001), "wide-reaching changes in the communication landscape" are happening as a result of "linguistic innovation" on social networking sites such as Facebook. Merchant's study suggests "that teenagers and young people are in the vanguard of these processes of change as they fluently exploit the possibilities of digital technology, radically changing the face of literacy." While such a suggestion could imply that teenagers may be able to utilize their jargon for companies looking to promote themselves among younger crowds, there is no guarantee that the jargon itself is supportable and free of contentious elements: in fact, Merchant notes that "tension between change and conservatism" has been a case of study for scholars exploring the topic of linguistics capital.
But Facebook has also changed the way we think of ourselves -- it has changed the way we view our identity: Keith Hayward and Majid…