Started in 2004 by the now infamous Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook started as a small social-networking site for Harvard students. By 2005 other Universities were using Facebook and shortly after High School students were joining too and in 2006 Facebook went public. Much simpler than its predecessor Myspace, Facebook offered users the ability to socialize without the promoting of other media properties.
It may be hard to imagine now but ten years ago the internet you were using would slow with each ad and pop-up, and Myspace was built on ads, images and multi-media. In the beginning Facebook kept their site free of these and created a safe haven, albeit a cyber-one. By 2012, Facebook had won over its rivals to become the world's largest social networking site with almost 1 billion users. “Approximately 200 million of Facebook's users are located in the United States, and with the U.S. population just over 300 million that means that almost two-thirds of all Americans use Facebook.Since its unveiling Facebook has collected all of the information that users have entered over the years and privacy has become a major concern.
Known for helping people keep in touch with family and friends, re-uniting lost friends or old flames, meeting new people and finding new interests, Facebook has become much more than just a social media site. First and foremost it has become a vast empire of personal data. The amount of information that people provide on a second to second basis, willingly, is astonishing. Criminals have been apprehended for blasting on Facebook that they have made a grand escape only to be captured when police see their posts and locate them much quicker than if they hadn’t posted on the site.
Facebook has also become a sort of cyber reality. You will see people on Facebook who do not resemble themselves at all in “real” life. Either they don’t look like themselves, or they don’t act like themselves. You have to ask which is the true personality. It could be, and most likely is, that everyone has an alter ego and Facebook is just the most perfect platform for that.
Most importantly Facebook has seemed to become an addiction for some. There are millions of Americans who do not go a day without Facebook. For others they never log out. The posts of pictures are endless. Kids, dogs, cats, vacations, weddings, parties, food, destinations, music, brain teasers, jokes, cynicism, and let’s not forget the selfies. We as a society have become so narcissistic that we think that yes, you need a picture of us, taken by ourselves and plastered across the internet.
Supporters of social media outlets will argue that Facebook has made a more positive impact than negative. The site has been used to help generate meetings and gatherings to protest and start revolutions. It has assisted in locating lost children and has helped raise money for all sorts of causes throughout the world. It has connected the world and has created a new forum for all. It has given the world a super highway into each other’s homes, hearts and minds. And as of now Facebook did not just change the way we share information but the information that we share. Individuals are a much more personal on Facebook and seem to trust other individuals that they have never met in person to see their pictures and thoughts and state of being. In a positive sense it is a beautiful melting pot of a new consciousness. It has become a utopia of exposure to the world.
Opposition to such social media will tell you that it is likely that in the future, possibly the near future we will have to re-evaluate this sense of freedom and safety that we have on Facebook. With predators on the internet coming in all shapes and sizes people have been taken advantage of. There are scams that include things as simple as computer viruses, identity theft and false charities, but in severe cases, bullying, harassment, financial ruin, sexual predators, and even murder have occurred.
There is the classic argument that Facebook is making us all stupid and anti-social, by allowing us to have the world at our fingertips and therefore enabling us to become unaware or even indifferent to physical contact. “In a study where 200 college students were asked to abstain from using all communications media, and then afterwards when students were asked to describe what it was like to go without media, they used words that are typically associated with drug and alcohol addiction. "I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening," one student said.”Most recently there has been a spike in the number of suicides induced by bullying on such sites as Facebook and prosecuting such crimes are just now reaching legislatures across our nation.
It is true that the social media craze has changed the way the world socializes. It has been used as a tool just like any other media outlet, to assist in the assembly of people and at times it has brought them together while at the same time consistently keeping them apart.
Facebook is now thought to be worth billions of dollars and after the unveiling of an IPO in 2012, the stock rose and then drastically fell, only to slowly recover. But it was not the site that had actual value, it was the information that people have willingly inputted. Advertising by means of personal data is very desirable to corporations. The privacy issue has even included our very own government and their ability to access our personal data.
I believe that awareness is the key. Think of Facebook and all social media outlets as a window to your home. You are letting people see into your life and the way that you think. Facebook is both dangerous and exciting at the same time and it can be hard to resist. Even though Facebook has changed the way we share things and even the things that we share, it is still our responsibility as people striving for good things, to be aware of our surroundings. There will always be murderers and saints. There will always be the mean girls at school, and the boy you have a crush on. There will always be that revolution just waiting to be begun. It is our obligation to not become the drugged out Facebooker; it is our duty to act accountable in cyber public, and it should be our concern about the security of our thoughts and feelings, personal information and financial surety.
Use Facebook for what it is. It is a place to stay in touch with friends and family, a place to find funny cynicism, and a surplus of food porn. But be cautious of what you offer up as information about yourself. Would you look out your window and say or do the same thing? Would you want some creepy guy watching your kids grow up from afar? Or would you want your boss to know how much you drank last night and the “real” reason you didn’t make it into work? And don’t forget Uncle Sam who’s always watching from somewhere and is probably listening too. Respect your own privacy and don’t give it away for free.