You’re not on FB anymore? Say what? That’s the question I’m asked when I tell people that I deactivated my account two years ago and can’t friend them. They are disbelieving yet curious and even a little offended. But I’ve learned to live without it. While there is no doubt that social networking sites like FB have irrefutable benefits, studies are now indicating that too much social networking is adversely impacting us as well.
Larry D. Rosen, PhD, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, expounds on the potential detrimental effects of social networking in an American Psychological Association press release:
- — Teens who use FB more often show more narcissistic tendencies while young adults who have a strong Facebook presence show more signs of other psychological disorders, including antisocial behaviors, mania and aggressive tendencies.
- — Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.
- — FB can be distracting and can negatively impact learning. Studies found that middle school, high school and college students who checked FB at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades.
But there are some positive affects of social media. Rosen concluded:
- — Young adults who spend more time on FaceBook are better at showing “virtual empathy” to their online friends.
- — Online social networking can help introverted adolescents learn how to socialize behind the safety of various screens, ranging from a two-inch smartphone to a 17-inch laptop.
- — Social networking can provide tools for teaching in compelling ways that engage young students.
Are the positive influences of social media really beneficial though? Do we really want our young adults to learn how to socialize behind a screen instead of face-to-face in real situations? How does “virtual empathy” compare to real empathy and the ability to comfort someone in a time of need? What tools can social networking provide for teaching that can engage young students in the way that hands-on experience can?
Social networking aims to connect us and draw us closer. In many ways, it has. Unfortunately, it has also served to disconnect us from each other and the world. It has changed the way we develop relationships and given us more opportunity to avoid real human interaction, which is what makes life interesting. Staring at a screen that tells me what my “friends” are eating, who’s working out at the gym, and who’s having difficulties in their relationships is not compelling to me. Or interesting. There is a wealth of information that is more engaging and intellectually stimulating for me to digest on my own.
I think we could all agree that, when scrolling through the endless updates on FB, we can experience a range of emotions including anger, frustration and jealousy. And what’s our response to those feelings? We either vent to the people in front of us or we take a passive-aggressive approach and post a generic status aimed at the person annoying us. We post thoughts we would never actually say in a conversation under the safety of our computer screen.
Ending a relationship can get even more complicated with FB. “FB prolongs the period it takes to get over someone, because you have an open window into their life, whether you want to or not,” says Yianni Garcia of New York, a consultant who helps companies use social media. “You see their updates, their pictures and their relationship status.” And starting a relationship can be even more challenging when you find out the cute girl you’ve been talking to really doesn’t exist at all. This has become so prevalent, that MTV now has a series about it called Catfish.
And did you know that, once uploaded, FB owns your photos and videos? According to FB’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:
Your Content and Information
You own all of the content and information you post on FB, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with FB (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
Basically, FB is allowed to use or sell anything that you upload until you delete it (and it’s removed from their backup) or you permanently delete your account. You will have to log in to your account and fill out a form to completely remove your uploads and yourself. While adamant that they don’t share your data, they still reserve the right to do so in the future. I guess I won’t be running for president anytime soon.
While there are other potentially more efficient social media sites like Google+, FB will be sustained for now by our path dependency. Path dependency is when a person or society has invested so much into doing things a certain way that it become increasingly difficult to start over and change significantly. Someone who primarily communicates through phone conversations will continue to do so without embracing new technologies like texting or instant messaging. They may participate in the new technology but will remain with their primary form of communication because they are path dependent.
It takes a huge, coordinated momentum shift for people to alter their paths. It is possible but don’t expect a mass exodus to Google+ anytime soon. And don’t expect FB to change their content rules either. They, too, are path dependent.