Everything in the world has good and bad aspects, and that can definitely be said as true for the phenomenon that is Facebook. Our lives have been taken over by this long running trend, one that has lasted more than a single season, in fact one that has lasted longer than any of us could have possibly predicted. It hasn’t been discarded like last season’s jacket, or pushed to the back of the wardrobe like last year’s shoes. No, Facebook is just as ‘in’ now as it was when it was first open to the global market. More so, even. And let’s be honest, what’s not to love? People of all ages can chat with their friends and family from all around the world for a price much smaller than that of a phone call. Still, everything comes at a cost, and I don’t mean that in a financial sense. So now to the real question: is Facebook a valuable communication platform beneficial to all its users, or merely a time waster that has caused more headaches than happiness? For me, an average, sociable seventeen year old, I lean further away from the latter. That’s not to say I don’t see both the positives and negatives of this successful website and social networking in general.
Certainly, there are many advantages to Facebook. The easiness of communication is the obvious one. Who could have possibly imagined that someone would create a space where we could communicate, share photos and keep up-to-date with our friends from all over the globe as long as we had access to an internet connection? The idea at the time definitely would have seemed farfetched, just as all the great inventions and discoveries of history, I suppose. Now look at us. The majority of people I know would struggle desperately to live without it. However, in my opinion, the benefits of Facebook and other social networking sites reach much further than the evident convenience of communication and general socialising. In a world that can unintentionally overlook the opinions of society’s youth, it has become a platform upon which teenagers can express their feelings and voice their opinions, knowing that they will actually be heard, if not by adults, certainly by their peers. Whether they want to share their feelings with the world, or merely their closest friends, Facebook makes either possible. For some, it is their first opportunity to truly feel as though they belong to a group. Their first chance to feel as though someone is actually listening, that others care about them, their opinions and feelings. This concept, for me personally, is difficult to fully grasp. I get it, I understand it, I know that some people just need to feel loved and cared about, but I’d prefer face-to-face contact any day, which leads me to the negatives.
For years, I have had the dangers of cyberspace drilled into me from parents, from teachers, from various adults. I have been to multiple seminars and workshops through school, been forced to fill out a variety of surveys and questionnaires, and listened to an endless amount of case studies all concerning the topic. While I personally have never been affected by cyber bullying or online stalkers, I am fully aware of just how detrimental the time spent in cyberspace can be. Maybe it’s paranoia from the constant warnings, but whenever I am talking to someone online it’s always in the back of my mind that they aren’t who they say they are. And, no, I don’t necessarily mean that every time I’m talking to my best mate I’m wondering if it is a seventy year old paedophile; it’s not that extreme. Sometimes, however, if I get a weird wall post or someone sends me a strange inbox, I wonder if it is actually one of my friends, or one of their mates who has hacked their account and is having a bit of a joke. And this isn’t unrealistic. We all know that when a group of giggly girls get together or even a gang of burly boys a simple prank call, or prank online message, can be extremely amusing; but doesn’t it make you think how easy it is to switch identities when online? Nobody even has to hear your voice, let alone see your face, and you can write whatever you like, whenever you like, with no more contact other than that given from your computer monitor. It’s not only the fact that we can never be sure who we are talking to, but other aspects come into it too. Parents actually do have a point when they moan about their children spending too much time on Facebook instead of doing their homework or getting outside. At our age it’s hard to grasp the concept that this is time we will never get back and it will be gone in the blink of an eye, or so I get told. A balance between work and play is what a healthy lifestyle consists of, and when this balance is upset by countless hours spent on Facebook, the situation rarely ends well.
I don’t see social networking, in particular Facebook, as an entirely bad thing or a completely good thing, but simply a combination of the two. As with everything in life, there are elements of both associated with it, and just like junk food and most good things, moderation is the key. As human beings we can’t help but succumb to the latest trend, and I’ll admit to occasionally overdoing it and sacrificing valuable time that could be spent on study or exercise, but we’re not completely to blame. I mean, what’s not to love about a global grapevine? The curious, social creatures we are cannot help but to be sucked in.