How dark is the world getting that we are increasingly turning to social networking to lighten it up? How many times a day do you turn on your computer or your laptop to do something and then find yourself, almost without thinking, logging on to some social site or another? I’ve written about it before, but today we live in a world where our lives are documented upon the internet – on chat pages, feeds, notifications and timelines.
There are probably as many pictures of you on Facebook as there are real pictures of you in frames, on mantelpieces, in wallets and on walls in all of your relatives’ houses. And for a lot of people, myself included, there are probably a quite high percentage of those pictures that you would rather your parents, and especially your grandparents, would not see. So how do you feel about that, if you really think about it? If you type your name in on Google, and then go to Images, you will more than likely see a picture of you staring back. Try it now, and then try it with anyone else that you can think of and you will find, nine times out of ten, that the same thing will happen.
So what if the wrong picture went up and the whole world saw something that you didn’t want them to see? Or what if you found, when browsing your local high-street, that your face is emblazoned across a jumper or t-shirt? You will have heard about these things happening, there’s no doubt about that, but did you know that any content that you post on Facebook, unless legally specified, is property of Facebook? So the pictures you take on your phone or camera become the property of a corporation hundreds of miles away as soon as you post them on your page, and where does it end? According to the legal page on Facebook’s site, ‘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 Facebook’. So your pictures, thoughts, friendships and even relationships are, technically online, under the legal ownership of Facebook. There is a point when this kind of thing has to become suspect, and if you didn’t know that then do you feel comfortable now knowing that? Today there are 1 billion Facebook users; YouTube reaches more adults than any television network; 95% of Facebook users log on every day, 65% of Twitter users log on every day, and 30% Linkedin users log on every day; over 5 million of Facebook’s users are under ten years old and the total number of Facebook users is three times the overall population of the USA, and so it would be safe to say that somewhere in there that massive number of people, there will certain members that will, for whatever reason, have fallen victim, in some way, to the darker side of social networking.
…Facebook users are, despite the basic function of the social site, on average more lonely than non Facebook users…
A little bit of research and you can find a whole range of statistics and facts concerning the much darker side of social networking. Research by the British Psychological Society has discovered that statistically those who use Facebook are more likely to be depressed and the same study found that Facebook users are, despite the basic function of the social site, on average more lonely than non Facebook users. It seems, in fact, to be that our interactions with Facebook and other social media networking has resulted in a society that has, in one way or another, found itself disillusioned and dissatisfied with life in general.
One quote, by the infamous graffiti artist Banksy, perhaps best summarises the modern relationship with the media and with Facebook, Twitter and every other site; ‘the people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff’. Although, in this, he is talking specifically about advertising, the same principle can be transferred across – for whatever reason we are addicted to the internet, and in that space we find ourselves constantly confronted with whatever advertising and company ploy that the owners see fit. We do not choose which site or which promotion sits alongside our newsfeed, but there is no doubt that we are affected by it. Of course, there is the argument that we have the freedom to log off at any time, we can, if we choose, move away from our online identities. But perhaps therein, in the simple term of online identity, we can find the very reason that we cannot log off and walk away.
…a simple message or simple joke can spiral out of control into being some monster of its own…
Today, in the modern age, Facebook has become the platform by which we are defined; you cannot go a day without hearing about it and you’re unlikely to have a conversation that does not, at some point, allude to it. And so what if your profile becomes the recipient of some sort of negative, depreciative or upsetting attack? The result of a Facebook status can stretch far further than we can sometimes intend; a simple message or simple joke can spiral out of control into being some monster of its own – your careless words could, easily, become a defining feature in your reality and in your future; you’ve heard of employers searching their prospective employees on Facebook, so why is it that, still, we do not limit ourselves to the things that we want people to know.
Think of your followers, but first think of what message is really delivered when you update your online identity.