The Dangers of Social Media Sites or Why Facebook is not Your Friend
With more than one billion users around the globe, Facebook is undeniably the number one social network in the world. In Facebook's 2012 annual report Mark Zuckerberg says:
"We can help connect the next five billion people. Over the next five to ten years, most people with feature phones will get smart phones. Some of them will get smart phones just so they can use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends."
This statement gives me pause. We can't stop the spread of technology (and why would we?) but six billion Facebook users is a troubling concept. Zuckerberg continues:
"When I think about the world today, the thing that amazes me most is how many people’s lives are getting better every day by just getting online and joining the knowledge economy."
Are people's lives really getting better by using Facebook? As we keep connecting and adding more digital friends, are we becoming more fulfilled, more joyful, more empowered? Not likely. Here are some of the most alarming reasons why.
Facebook makes us psychopathy-level narcissists obsessed with our own image.
Thanks to Photoshop and other editing software, most Facebook users only post pictures that present them in the best light possible, and the same goes for status updates - they're always about how great our life is, what an awesome relationship we are in, or how much we love our job.
We want to control how we appear to the world, so we choose our best, most polished, most edited self. That image is not the real person; it's a lie. The real person has ups and downs, challenges, uneven skin tone and really really bad hair days. Yet so many of us would rather believe a lie than accept our true - flawed but unique - self.
The other side of Facebook-induced narcissism is other people's Facebook-induced narcissism, because the logical consequences of being bombarded with fake displays of perpetual happiness and success are negative self-perception and overall dissatisfaction with your own life.
The truth is, Facebook makes us feel bad about ourselves because Jenny just posted pics from her last vacation in Maui, and you spent the holidays with your in-laws, and Jim got a big promotion which he immediately bragged about, and you've been struggling to earn a decent income.
Recent studies showed that the most common emotions aroused by using Facebook are envy, isolation and depression. Psychologists call this phenomenon "social comparison": learning about the achievements of like-minded peers leads to negative self-image and depression. In fact, many users were found to perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, and to react accordingly.
Facebook Privacy Violations
Even worse, Facebook steals your personal information. Never mind that you can never delete your account, you can't delete anything you ever posted!
Whatever you thought you deleted is stored in some information bank, and they have people who analyze that information to make decisions on how to better influence you. Facebook has also been linked to viruses that steal sensitive personal information from your computer.
In 2013 whistle-blower Edward Snowden who leaked information about United States surveillance programs to the press, disclosed the existence of NSA's Prism program. He stated that the NSA is monitoring the users of Facebook and other internet companies, including "audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents" and other materials. Facebook denied cooperating with the government.
What They Don't Want You to Know about Facebook
Fast Facts about Facebook
- 1 in every 13 people on Earth is on Facebook.
- 28% of 18-34 year olds check their Facebook account before they get out of bed.
- On a daily basis there are 350 million photos uploaded, 4.5 billion likes, 10 billion messages sent and 22 billion times that the Like or Share buttons are viewed.
- Al Pacino’s face was on the original Facebook homepage.
- Smartphone users check Facebook 14 times a day.
- There are about 30 million dead people on Facebook.
- A third of all US divorce filings in 2011 contained the word "Facebook" in them.
Then there is a thing called "Instant Personalization". It basically means that Facebook has a quid pro quo agreement with a number of sites to share your personal information with them. The sites then "customize" your browsing experience with targeted advertisement and feed the information back to Facebook.
It also means that if any of your FB friends made any purchases on participating sites or left reviews, you will see that on your Facebook feed, as well as the ads for the products you're likely to buy. That's social media marketing in a nutshell.
Go to Account>Privacy Settings>Apps>Instant Personalization. I bet you the automatic setting will be "On". Facebook wants you to think that it's all about sharing information between friends, and friends don't have secrets from other friends, right?
It will even give you a stern warning if you try to opt-out of Instant Personalization: "By confirming, you will no longer immediately see customized content and friend activity on partner websites." It will also tell you that all the criticism of their new "feature" is nothing but rumors: "Recently people have been spreading false rumors about instant personalization."
Now what's so bad about me going on TripAdvisor and seeing that my dear friend Shannon who now lives in Brazil has enjoyed excellent Barzinho food at "Cachambeer" restaurant?
Obtrusive Commercialization Of The Internet
The problem with that is, my friend Shannon is no longer just my friend Shannon. She is now a Facebook sales associate who is selling me Barzinho at "Cachambeer" restaurant. Of course, she doesn't know that. But the Facebook model of "Look at me, I'm doing this now, aren't you jealous?" commercializes and devalues friendships, and turns all of us who use Facebook (so pretty much everyone) into unwilling advertisers and salesmen who contribute to the site's shameless massive profits.
Everywhere you go online you have products shoved down your throat.
Oh you like Chopin? Here are some classics CDs for you! You liked "Catch Me If You Can"? Here are more movies with Leonardo Di Caprio. You liked your stay at "Snuggles Inn"? Then you're gonna love "Too Cute B&B".
Some of you will say: what's wrong with that? Facebook and these other sites help me find the stuff I like so I don't have to spend my precious time searching for it.
The problem is the completely revolting commercialization of the Internet, and the whole human experience for that matter. Remember the 1990s when the Web was about IDEAS? About the interconnectedness of the world? About communication and the freedom of information and the New Era of Enlightenment? Now everything is a buying experience.
Congratulations. We've lost nearly all our privacy in the name of rampant consumerism, and Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg.
P.S. I realize the irony of publishing this article on a revenue-sharing site that encourages writers to commercialize their content to make profits.
Consumerism And Facebook
© 2014 Lana Zakinov
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