Before you read on, I just want to explain that the opinions I express in this article, are my own and are drawn from personal experiences. I’m going to discuss social networking sites, most predominantly, Facebook. Let’s begin by investigating the dangers of these sites. We have all had the lecture on being safe whilst using the internet, after Bebo became popular. We were warned of paedophiles lurking around the web and were told horror stories of young girls meeting up with strangers online. Of course as we get older, we tend to be much more sensible about the things we expose on the internet. However, it is easy to recklessly post personal information on profiles, no matter how many privacy settings you have on.
Amazingly, although it has been drummed into us to not talk to strangers from an early age, a survey of 2000 Britons show that two thirds accept people they don’t know as friends on sites such as Facebook.
Although safety on the internet is a priority, I feel that it is not the only issue I have with social networking sites.
Issue number 1: Sure, abbreviating words is convenient and useful for having a quick chat. However, it is when they begin to take over our grammatical ability that we start to recognize problems. LOL, FTW, ROFL, LMAO, WTF, BRB, FML…It’s almost a wonder that we need the dictionary any more. That is, unless you include the Oxford Dictionary, in which “lulz”, “DW” and “UX” now, officially, make an appearance.
Issue number 2: I have seven new friend requests from people I hate. I accept them anyway. I don’t have 8972 friends. I have about five. Five real friends who I trust and love, and that’s good. It’s better than having 8967 friends that I don’t want to see, but am happy to look at. Statistics from 2011 show that an average user sends eight friend requests per month. Unless I am missing out on something here, I doubt that your average person meets eight new people a month, let alone makes friends with them.
Issue number 3: I’m sure that these “friends” have browsed through my profile and photos and judged me. I’m not sure that I want people secretly thinking that I gained weight since the summer or that although I look decent in that profile picture, I don’t live up to expectations in real life. I don’t want people to think that my taste in music is wrong or weird or boring just because it popped up on a list of things I have “liked”.
Studies have shown that social media users are the quickest to judge a profile picture, “Photos seem to be the primary way we make impressions of people on social networking sites,” said Brandon Van Der Heide, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University. “If your profile photo fits what they expect, observers may be unlikely to look very closely at the rest of your profile – they have already decided how they feel about you.”
Issue number 4: Revising was always agonizing for me. I would spend countless hours with one eye on my computer screen and the other on a text book, praying that a message or notification would pop up to free me from my work for a minute. My mum always used to say, use it as a reward system for when you finish so many hours of work. However, if no one was online when I finally finished my work, my reward would be refreshing a lifeless homepage every three minutes hoping for something mildly entertaining to pop up. Having said that, there is not much Facebook can do to stop you from stumbling across the odd statuses that you wish you hadn’t seen. For example, “Samz fartz smellz of bananaz Lolololololol Rofl”. 526 people actually like this?
In 2010, research showed that the exam results of students who used Facebook while working – even if only intermittently – were on average 20 per cent lower than people who did not. Unfortunately these statistics aren’t surprising due to my experiences.
Issue number 5: No, I’m not going to sell you a piece of land on Farmville, no I’m not going to poke you back, and no, I don’t want to know that Emma’s answered 27 secret questions about me which quite frankly, I find intrusive.
This is not me. I am not like this in real life. So why am I like this online? Having been a Facebook addict for the majority of my teenage years, I made the first step to de-activate my account before my GCSE exams started. Personally, this relieved me of stress, countless hours of mind-numbingly staring at my computer screen and the urge to act unlike myself in a virtual world. Now, almost 2 years down the line, I have matured a little and have more time to spare, therefore reactivated my account and like to think that I use it for all the right reasons, while remembering to not become obsessed.