Facebook is not the Enemy

Last week I went for dinner with a family friend of mine (David Bann’s on St Mary’s Street; I highly recommend it). Our conversation gradually evolved onto the topic of Facebook. My family friend told me she believes that the website is making youngsters today anti-social and has caused the loss of manners in society.

My first thought was ‘here we go again- another anti-Facebook rant from someone who doesn’t even use the site’. This common hypocrisy really ticks me off. I think it’s time someone explored the benefits of social networking sites, rather than just the negatives as the media and most of the population over 35 generally seem to do.

First and foremost, Facebook is a way for distant friends to keep in contact, much like the concept of Friends Reunited except, in many people’s opinion, Facebook does this in a more practical and stylish way. For local friends it can be used to conveniently arrange meet ups. Where would we be without the trusty ‘Facebook Event’? It is also a great way to share photos, videos, web links.

Of course, there are some rather irksome trends and fads that tend to appear on Facebook, with the current ones being ‘Memes’: ‘funny’ pictures we are encouraged to like. And every so often the website makes annoying changes (did anyone actually choose a timeline?) but within weeks all is forgiven and Facebook remains the first port of call for youngsters going online.

There is always a flipside. The downside of Facebook that the media tends to focus on is that it is the perfect breeding ground for paedophiles. We cannot deny this as being a real problem. However, and I appreciate this is a controversial statement, I believe the onus here is on the individuals. It is just common sense to refrain from speaking to total strangers or posting revealing pictures that can- and most likely, will- be seen by numerous people around the world. Facebook has several security measures that users can choose to adopt or not, with certain safety features compulsory for under 18s.

It could be argued that the Facebook ‘like’ culture has caused this lack of common sense in teenage girls. If someone ‘likes’ your photo or post, it can be very flattering. Therefore, a stranger with an attractive profile picture who ‘likes’ your photo may seem like a good person to speak to. This is difficult to prevent, the only way being increased education on internet safety. Times move on so we should focus on the dangers of online paedophiles rather than the traditional ‘sweets in the van’ cliché.

One thing is for sure- Facebook certainly isn’t going anywhere. My spellcheck even recognises it as a word. If we had known ten years ago that what would seem the peculiar idea of social networking would come to dominate our lives as it does, we would not believe it. But it has. “On the forth of October 2012, Mark Zuckerberg announced on the website that “there are more than one billion people using Facebook actively each month”. Politicans, celebrities and journalists have all embraced the new world of social media: I think it’s time others did too.

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