In our day and age, one cannot imagine life without the internet. It is the fastest and most efficient way of communicating or getting in touch with our peers and loved ones. Web 2.0 revolutionized the way we lead our lives and consequently, how we view it.
With the advent of social networking sites, people are finding it more and more difficult to exclude themselves from the various and endless activity buzzing about in the world wide web. Who could’ve thought that with just one click of a button, you can watch a breaking news of an earthquake in Japan, or see what your boyfriend or mom and dad are up to, or simply not leave the house but be in another part of the world, exploring. What was once private has now become public. One can Tweet and tell everyone what they’re doing, if they’re feeding their cats or walking the dog, or if they’ve recently stalked a celebrity. All under the banner of staying connected.
This holds ultimately true for Facebook. A college experiment that begun in Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg has created a billion dollar empire that doesn’t only allow you to stay connected with your friends but is also a platform where programmers can create applications. Aside from its feature that allows you to keep in touch as long as you’re a member, Facebook’s main attraction is based on the fact that it recreated the virtual world itself, concentrating everything on the web into one seeming source. Just a few years ago, Facebook created a massive campaign wherein sites that users like are immediately directed to Facebook. Now, almost every site has a Facebook button feed.
While all of these are well and good, a huge percent of netizens are becoming more and more vigilant about how Facebook is encroaching their lives. A few parents are saying that their children are spending too much time on the net thus neglecting their studies, while others have more serious concerns like privacy.
One shouldn’t be surprised if this is the case because of the presence of Facebook’s wall that all profiles have, wherein once you’re connected to a friend, other people you’re connected to can see what you’re up to; an examples of this apparent invasion, although only slightly implied, is lamebook.com, a site dedicated to cropping Facebook wall posts, without out-rightly disclosing profiles or pictures, ranging from embarrassing to racy, from family matters to questionable morals. This only shows that one is just a click away from having his or her privacy invaded.
Facebook has a history of changing its policy without even consulting the users. Users are allowed by Facebook to deactivate their accounts but not necessarily remove the content of that account from its database.
This has caused much debate. A representative from Facebook have tried to explain to a student from the University of British Columbia that members had to erase their own accounts manually, removing everything including wall posts, friends, and groups. This issue was noted by a New York Times article, raising concerns that emails and other private data are being kept indeterminately by the Facebook servers. Subsequently, Facebook now states: “When you delete an account, it is permanently deleted from Facebook.”
Furthermore is the networking site’s blocking access. Studies have shown a growing addiction in terms of Facebook use among its users that time spent for productivity is time spent surfing or trolling around looking at pictures and updating wall posts. In May 2007, Ontario’s MPPs, cabinet ministers, Ontario government employees, and Federal public servants’ access to Facebook on government computers were blocked.
A warning message appeared when they tried to access the site: “The internet website you have requested has been deemed unacceptable for use for government business purposes.” The same warning also popped up when the employees tried to access Youtube, Myspace, pornographic and gambling websites.
But through all these, a few persistent employees actually found a way to slip through the protocol and was able to access the site, some of them asserting that their use of Facebook is for work-related or purposes that is highly political. Other similar incident also occurred in Finland and the UK; a number of their local government imposed restrictions on the use of Facebook because of the technical strain they incurred in their offices. The US Marine Corps have also issued the same restrictions along with other government agencies around the US, including Broward County, Florida where employees have been blocked from logging onto Facebook and other social networking sites since 2009.
On a more personal level, Facebook has also been blamed since its increase in membership as one of the main reason why teens and college students are neglecting studies. Recent studies show, conducted by the Ohio State University, that while Facebook does create bond, cement friendship, and foster a sense of community, college students who use Facebook are the ones who’s more likely spending more time online to see what’s up or new in their friends’ walls, rather than actually studying. Although there had been claims from the students that the social networking site doesn’t interfere with their getting good grades, the study insists that there’s a certain disconnect with such suppositions despite the study’s finding that they had lower grades and spent less time studying.
The typical Facebook users had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0, meaning that users spend one to five hours studying, compared to the hours spent by non-users which average to about 11 to 15 hours per week. This, the conductors of the study observed, was both interesting and alarming. But people around the world are taking actions:
A good example of this is when in October of 2005, the University of New Mexico blocked access to Facebook from UNM campus computers and networks, mentioning uninvited emails and a bogus site called UNM Facebook. A UNM user, after signing into Facebook from outside the campus then received a message that said: “We are working with the UNM administration to lift the block and have explained that it was instituted based on erroneous information, but they have not yet committed to restore your access.” UNM, in an official statement to students who tried to access the site from the UNM network wrote, “This site is temporarily unavailable while UNM and the site owners work out procedural issues. The site is in violation of UNM’s Acceptable Computer Use Policy for abusing computing resources (e.g., spamming, trademark infringement, etc). The site forces use of UNM credentials (e.g., NetID or email address) for non-UNM business.” But after Facebook rendered an encrypted login and showed a precautionary note not to use university passwords to log in, UNM immediately unblocked access the following spring semester.
And this does make one wonder what sort of fascination Facebook has on all of its users? Yes, it allows you to momentarily connect with your friends but one can most certainly do that in real life. In one study, it has been proven that Facebook reaffirms ones latent narcissism and when this is not met, that person, apparently gets depressed. Some researchers have suggested that individuals who experience loneliness and depression are at a higher risk for excessive internet use, while other researchers have found that excessive use of the internet is what increases the risk for loneliness and depression. This could very well indicate, as one study demonstrated, a looping effect in which the feeling of being alone may lead to the excessive use of the internet, and that excessive use of the internet may reaffirm feelings of inadequacy and of being alone which we already there on the first place.
At Stony Brook University New York, however, they discovered that this kind of feeling is mostly rampant in teenager girls. The outcome of their examinations showed that the girls who talk with their friends incessantly about things that bother them had significantly higher levels of depression. The constant need to be reminded of one’s importance, indicative of Facebook wall posts or comments is where, researchers say, the initial problem begins. But this doesn’t mean that it is only teenage girls who has this feeling of depression, they are just the tip of the iceberg, which is the workings and machinations of social networking sites such as Facebook.
One firm example is the countless components borne out of the Facebook platforms, with virtual farms and houses that need tending. The more hours the user spend in building this virtual self, the more he harbors a feeling of isolation once he goes back to the real world where crops don’t really grow in a matter of days or that the idea of friendship is rather a complicated matter. Connection then becomes entertainment. Like the teenage girls in the said study who won’t stop talking about themselves, there is a silence that comes after the noise. As one of the researcher puts it, these are the same girls who years ago have spent hours on the phone or writing out their thoughts in secret “slambooks”. It is therefore not that medium per se that is the issue, but the length of the discussion that leads to the feelings of depression. And Facebook is a space that actually provides just that.
But this is not the only criticism that Facebook have come across with regards to intrapersonal development. There is also the question of Facebook bullying.
Just this January in Estero, Florida, two high school students were brought in by the police under the suspicion that they have made fake Facebook profiles so that they can bully one of their classmates. Taylor Wynn, 16, and McKenzie Barker, 15, were charged with Aggravated Stalking of a Minor Under 16 Years of Age which is a felony. According to investigators, the two girls put up lascivious comments and pictures of the victim, which requested not to be named, on separate accounts that were created in April 2010 at the Wynn’s residence.
The profiles, which allowed other classmates to view pictures and blog about the victim were manipulated to make it look like she put them up themselves. Wynn confessed to the detective that she created the pages as a joke because “nobody liked [the victim].” It was reported that Barker sent Wynn a photo of the victim with the head on a naked prepubescent girl’s body which Wynn edited and then posted on Facebook. The investigators found out after talking to the victim that initially, she thought the pages would just simply disappear, but it proved her wrong when students began teasing and ridiculing her.
with the likelihood of unknown profiles and the construction of groups to zero in on any person using the networking site. An Oceanside teenage sued Facebook in 2009 together with four of her former classmates for $3 million after the alleged students made a Facebook group that was password protected that was “calculated to hold the plaintiff up to public hatred, ridicule and disgrace,” says her lawyer. As an answer to this, a Facebook personnel was quoted saying that “[we] do not see any merit to this suit and we will vigorously fight it. A similar case also happened in August 21, 2009, when 18 year-old Keeley Houghton of Malvern, Worcestershire were given three months in a juvenile offenders’ correction facility because he was found guilty of bullying a classmate, also on Facebook, which made her the first person in the UK to be put behind bars for bullying in a social networking site.
Furthermore, in November 2009, Facebook was also blamed for inciting Gingerism after a ‘Kick a Ginger’ group was put up which was taken from an episode of the animated show South Park, Ginger Kids, a group aimed to promote a “National Kick a Ginger Day” on the 20th of November. It received about 5,000 members. The boy who ran the Facebook group, a 14-year old from Courtenay, British Columbia was placed under investigation from the Royal Canadian Mountain Police for potential hate crimes.
Perhaps this trend and problem can most likely be akin to
Facebook’s lack of customer support, a few observers suggest. The lack of live support makes it quite difficult to answer problems that demand the service of an administrator or are not found in the faqs, for example, the management of a directory when you have disabled your account. Facebook’s automated emailing system used when filling out a support form usually points the users back to the help center or to outdated pages that cannot be opened which leads the members in a tight spot with nothing to support them any further.
The moment customers are tagged as users, service for your costumers is automatically redefined, may it be checking on your friend’s profile or the point system in Café World. Looking for a breathing person to lend you a hand with certain issues can be more difficult than opting to buy for a new espresso maker for your virtual café. The customer support of Facebook is made up of databases responding to common question, together with a peer-source help technique that allows users to join in with the answers to each other’s problems. Of course, that’s the most reasonable choice for a community-driven website. But the question still remains, asked by more than a hundred users if it is quite possible to speak to a human at Facebook, either by email or by phone.
Tech companies would do very well to opt in adding more live people to their customer-service operations, some experts say. In a study reported this summer, it showed that compared to both the airline and cable television industries in customer satisfaction, Facebook ranked lower than the two, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, albeit Zuckerberg denied such claims saying that his employees do take their time to answer support requests. Maintaining a team of more than 100 offices around the world, Barry Schnitt, director of policy communications for the company, said that they also do monitor offensive content posted on the site.
A competing social networking site, Twitter, with less than a quarter of Facebook’s total number of users, has 12 software engineers and 20 agents constructing support tools, spokeswoman Jodi Olson voiced, in that, they maintain a site for support and retrieve help requests though e-mail. “We measure our success in terms of response time and user happiness,” Olson said. “We also constantly monitor mentions to @support and @twitter to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our community.” While at Digg, a much smaller social network, it gets around 3,000 to 4,000 e-mails per week. Its support team is generally fast at answering e-mails. But Twitter nor Digg take phone calls from customers. As of last week, Digg’s support team was made up of five people, but it’s uncertain whether the mass layoffs had an effect on the group; along with e-mails, they also check up on messages on Twitter and on Digg itself.
During a panel interview at his company’s headquarters, Zuckerberg said, “A lot of what we do is just help people out with their accounts, they get locked out of their accounts for whatever reason; they lose their password. We help them recover that.” Only time can tell if that really proves to be true.