Social networking sites (SNS) are a rapidly growing segment of social interaction all over the world. (McCafferty 19)They serve as a source of information for individuals and groups as well as a source of relative connectivity between individuals who know one another in the real world and to allow connections between people who share common interests but might not know one another outside a SNS. (Houghton & Joinson 75) The interconnectivity of the sites, in this paper the focus will be on Facebook the most popular of the SNS service, can serve as a foundational support network for information and to build and/or maintain social connections, yet it also has the potential to leave individuals vulnerable to fraudulent and bad behaviors by others as well as a public arena for the exposition of one's own bad behaviors. Some people claim that the potential for connectivity, and especially international connectivity issues associated with a global world view, mandate the support of the broader community for SNS sites and activities. (McCafferty) Conversely others argue that the potential for violations of privacy and inappropriate (or illegal) activities make SNS an insurmountable threat to individuals that should be tightly controlled if not stopped all together. (Kugler) (Haughton & Joinson) (Chaulk & Jones)
The reality is that with the advent of almost any new technology there are both positive and negative possible outcomes, and in the case of social networking sites the potential of each can be exponential. Therefore Facebook should have high levels of easy to use choice on the part of the consumer, as to what he or she is willing to share and with who and should also have a low level of tolerance for illegal and bad behavior on the part of users all while protecting this functional and useful new social tool. (McCafferty) (Kayri1 & Cak-r) (Kodrich & Laituri) (Carroll & Landry)
Argument in Favor of Greater Controls or Elimination of Facebook
Facebook can and often does create conflict in interpersonal relationships through inappropriate behaviors of its users. The kind of conflict it generates can be associated with information sharing that is beyond acceptable to "all" of one's connections and therefore offensive or even incriminating to self or others. Something that might seem benign to one person might turn out to be highly offensive, invasive or incriminating to others. (Chaulk & Jones 246) The resulting circumstances can be surprising and emotionally stressful for some involved. (Houghton & Joinson 82) In some recent examples the shaming of an individual for public actions that were seen as offensive by some created reportedly sever reactions in those involved, while others were sanctioned with job loss as a result of online posts on his or her SNS page. (Houghton & Joinson 77)
These situations, and others bring to mind a need to carefully control the venue of the SNS, so that individuals are in the least aware of the possibility of connectivity associated with posting and/or the posting activities of others. This is also to say nothing of the two other important issues that can be seen in SNS activity, cyber-bullying or stalking and fraudulent economic scams. (Chaulk & Jones) (Kugler) Lastly there is also a valid argument that has been present prior to Facebook where psychologists and others fear harm to introverted individuals because the venue allows them to avoid real life social contact. (Ryan & Xenos) The kind of connectivity that feeds such offensive results is made possible only by the very existence of Facebook and other SNS sites, which create at least the illusion of anonymity and protection by distance for the knowing offender but also demonstrate fertile ground for self-incrimination by sharing of information that others might see as a violation of privacy. The arguments that support the dismantling or the mandating of severe legal and therefore (physical) restrictions are supported by the fact that these events occur and occur often, some with relatively minor results and others with rare but disastrous results.
Privacy violations, though they are subjective likely occur every second though the majority is relatively minor, no more common than in real life social interactions but multiplied by thousands and millions based on the connectivity of so many people many of whom have access to Facebook 24-7. In other words because individuals cannot interact with 130 (the average number of Facebook user friends) known people in the physical world in any given day the odds of offense or even real or perceived harm increase exponentially in both directions. (Houghton & Joinson 75) In this context the validity of stricter controls and even the elimination of some more unsecure features or even the site itself seem plausible as like many other forms of technology the potential for human harm is great. (Strand 11) (Ryan & Xenos) Additionally, the standard idea that the consumer is ultimately responsible for self-protection seems to be lacking in this instance as so much becomes out of control in a web of infinite connectivity.
Argument in Favor of Protection or Even Expansion of Facebook
The converse argument also holds water as it is very clear that the potential for human social gain is as great if not greater than the potential for harm and therefore should be protected, without concern for the potential for harm. Human beings all over the world can connect in real time, as events occur and make a real positive difference to one another. Some examples in the literature include the incomparable activity associated with recent natural disasters, such as was seen in the Haiti earthquake. Individuals and groups had access to rapid information about the disaster, the human toll and the needs of the people and other more fortunate individuals even responded with an unprecedented amount of aid revolving around Facebook and other SNS sites. (Kodrich & Laituri 626)
There is a clear sense that in many instances the opportunity to connect to cultural ideas and ideals different from one's own is also potentially promising in ways in which it has never been before. Prior to the internet and the connectivity of Facebook there has been only a limited opportunity for cultural interaction as travel is usually relegated to the elite, many locations and cultures are hard to reach and language barriers are frustrating, so what was left for most was the ability to view still shots in newspapers and magazines and read or listen to the interpretations of an outsider.
Consider these numbers: Facebook is poised to hit 700 million users and, as seven of 10 Facebook members reside outside the U.S., more than 70 global-language translations. & #8230;In terms of daily usage, Facebook generates the second-most traffic of any site in the world...(McCafferty 19)
Though some would argue that the manner in which users use Facebook does not always lend itself to global social interaction, i.e. that individuals usually only interact directly with those they know in real life or on topical levels with those they do not, this does not negate the context of the possibility for enormous social and cultural sharing. (Ryan & Xenos 1660) (McCafferty) (Kodrich & Laituri) These interactions which can be viewed as either positive or negative demonstrate a potential for cultural sharing that should not be curtailed despite the opportunity for fraud and/or any other potential harm from exposure. In this context is also the point where the culture in which we live has become increasingly mobile in the last 100 years and therefore it is much more common for individuals and origin families to be living very far from their place of birth and therefore their origin culture and family.
This may leave some people lonely for the familiar and in serious need for a communication tool that in the very least makes people they have known in other places accessible at any time. There is a clear sense that this type of assurance is enough to calm the loneliness of a new place, and especially for children and teens. (Chaulk & Landry 245) (Kayri & Cak-r) The potential for harm for most is nearly completely negated by the potential for good that is offered by Facebook and other SNS sites and applications.
The common ground that exists between these two seemingly opposing views is actually rather significant as each would like to see the positive outweigh the negative in as many ways as possible. Each would like to see the individual protected and at least some credence given to the ways in which individuals and Facebook itself can mitigate harm through user options, awareness and site controls. The resulting protections would ultimately create an environment that would meet the needs of both views by ultimately protecting the user and creating a situation that would enhance rather than demean human social interaction. Though the latter view would like to see fewer controls and the former view would like to see far more the ultimate and ideal would be a format that…