Needless to say, I started this article since this morning. And it is now 3:30pm and I've only now finished doing the research and reading up on reports having to do with Facebook. What took me so long? I had to check my facebook profile at least ten times already. Terrible. I know! What is meant to take less than two minutes to check what someone's written on my wall and to update my facebook status, ended up being time spent browsing through a couple of my friends photo albums, my cousin's ex-boyfriend's wedding photos and when I read about certain privacy issues with facebook, I had to go check my security and privacy settings on my facebook profile, of course.
Okay, so what is Facebook?
Facebook is a free-access social networking website developed by sophomore Mark Zuckerberg of Harvard University in 2004 and two other colleagues, open to anyone with a valid email address, and offers its members options of joining the millions of networks of people with similar interests.
What can you do on facebook?
Facebook users do a lot on their facebook page such as:
1) Keep in touch with friends and family all over the world.
2) Join networks based on just about anything such as the city you are from, your hobbies, passion for a cause etc.
3) Add friends and send them messages, write on their walls etc.
4) Update your personal user profile to notify friends about you.
5) Chat with other friends using facebook chat.
6) Play games such as Poker and Bejewelled.
7) Upload pictures and comment on your friends pictures.
8) Be a part of many applications ETC.
So what are the negatives of facebook?
1) Facebook is addictive and time consuming
Okay, so it's not like being addicted to alchol or smoking, but it is a modern addition that has reached the young and old alike all over the world. There are even websites that offer information on 'Facebook Addiction Disorder," all aimed at trying to help you find out if are you suffering from Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD), by asking questions such as: How often do you find that you stay on facebook longer than you intended? How often do you neglect household chores to spend more time on Facebook? How oftend do you check your email before something else that you need to do?
The negatives associated with facebook addiction include: a lot of time spent online instead of doing other meaningful activities you might have planned; less time spent on actual verbal and social interaction via person to person contact; and time wasted on reading details about people's lives such as what they ate for lunch, how they are feeling at the moment hungry, sleepy, angry etc, instead of doing something perhaps from rewarding like reading up on current events or writing another article for Helium!
How many times do you find yourself checking your facebook profile as soon as you get up on a morning before heading to work, then checking as soon as you reach in work to see what your friends may have already posted on their profiles for the morning, or maybe just going online for a second to look a photo of a friend and end up browsing more than 120 photos of what your friend has done over the weekend or on vacation? Let's admit it's fun, and where I come from it is dubbed 'MacoBook,' meaning that it is a website you go to just to find out other people's business. All this time spent on facebook can lead to you procrastinating from doing other tasks at hand such as your job tasks, studying for exams, calling your mom, doing valuable research, or worst of all, the household chores; That's an easy one to procrastinate from doing.
3) Privacy issues
Facebook users are sometimes unaware of the dangers of the internet and issues such as hacking. Users feel obliged to share all the details of their lives down to where they are at, at a particular time. They give out details such as their location, phone numbers, and black berry pins etc. without thinking that somewhere one of the 'friends' you may have added, you don't actually know. An article in the Times dated 03rd March 2009, stated that Facebook users are at risk as hackers target the site and further noted that users were at risk from malicious hackers targeting the site, as thieves try to capitalize on the trust users place on the service. This can be potentially damaging based on what information you have stored on your 'About me page' or information shared with friends via private messages etc. You should try and refrain from sharing sensitive information such as bank account information and private passwords etc.
(b) Surveillance and data mining
As part of a research project on Facebook privacy which was published in 2005, two MIT students were able to download over 70,000 Facebook profiles from four universities using and automated shell script. Furthermore, in May 2008 there was a case where the BBC technology program Click demonstrated that personal details of Facebook users and their friends could be stolen by submitting malicious applications.
(c) Problems with completely deleting Facebook accounts
There is also the issue of completely deleting your Facebook profile/account if you no longer want to be part of the social networking website. It is difficult to completely delete your user account. Previously, Facebook only allowed users to 'deactivate' their accounts which enabled their profile to no longer be visible. However, the problem with this is that any information the user had entered into the website and on their profile remained on the website's servers. However, as of February 29th 2009, Facebook changed its account deletion policies which now allow users to contact the website to request that their accounts be permanently deleted.
Beacon is part of a marketing initiative that allows websites to publish a user's activities to their Facebook profile as Social Ads and promote products. However, Facebook was criticized for collecting more user information that initially stated would be done. This has now changed where you can select in your Privacy Settings not to share information with Beacon. However, I am not sure how many people are aware of this. I only discovered it after doing research for this article and then proceeded to fiddle around with my privacy settings and changed it so that my information is not shared.
4) Can cause problems at work
Many business places have prohibited the use of Facebook during working hours which is as a result of lack of productivity and a lot of time wasted online on non-work related stuff. Time is money after all! Employees have to be careful not to get caught constantly online updating their profile status, checking photos or chatting on Facebook chat, especially in this recession where people are getting fired.
In a recent article in the Times dated 06th July 2009, it was noted that the wife of Sir John Sawers, the future head of MI6, was in Facebook security alert. The article noted that the wife of the new head of MI6 has caused a major security breach and left his family exposed after publishing photographs and personal details on Facebook. This was found to be serious because Sir John Sawers is due to take over as chief of the Secret Intelligence Service in November, putting him in charge of all of Britain's spying operations abroad but now, the information on Facebook has put him and his family in a peculiar situation.
5) Can lead to Relationship problems
Drama! Drama! Drama! That is all part of exposing your life on a social networking website. The pictures with friends who might be ex- boyfriends or girlfriends, messages from admirers, online flirting - it may all seem harmless to you but may have a different effect on your significant other. An article in www.foxnews.com noted that for one particular girl, Facebook was destroying her relationship with her boyfriend which led to her having to delete her profile. The article further noted that this particular girl was not the only one who has had to delete their profile or commit Facebook suicide as it is now being referred to.
6) Takes away from quality time spent with significant others
Always having to check your Facebook profile to see who has written on your wall, commented on your photos or commented on your status etc, takes away from time spent with friends and family. I also think that the popular use of Blackberry phones has also assisted in taking away from quality time with real people. For example, when we are out liming with friends at a restaurant having dinner and drinks, it is a natural thing nowadays for people to constantly check their Blackberries to see what is up on Facebook. I think this takes away from the conversations and distracts the person. Come on people, put away the phones. You can check it when you go to the bathroom or something!
Well this is an obvious one. It is not limited to just Facebook but to all social networking websites. Beware that you may add someone you think is a friend but might turn out to be a stalker of some sort. Just be careful. Don't add people all willy nilly to your profile so that your tally for number of friends can be high.
Okay so with this all being said, I have to admit that I for one am a Facebook addict. I do hope that one day I won't have to commit Facebook suicide and I vow to make a conscious effort to be safe online, be aware of what information I share with others and make sure that I still spend quality time with family and friends. Facebook is great and once properly used, all will be fine!