Something Worth Taking a Screwdriver To
Social media has become an integral part of teen life, as well as a steadily increasing factor in the lives of those well past their golden years. ‘Leetspeak’ has practically become its own language thanks to Twitter, MySpace, Friendster, and other similar sites. In the jpeg jungle of social networking, Facebook has found itself at the pinnacle of the pixilated food chain. This virtual community welcomes over half a million new users daily, and continues to increase its user count at near startling rates. While this social media giant may be treasured by one out of every thirteen people worldwide with good reason, Facebook hurts more than it helps those wishing to live in relative privacy, build social skills, and share their lives.
Facebook stealthily but surely stole the limelight from good old fashion e-mail when it came to sharing life’s most precious moments along with its most regrettable ones. A picture in my graduation gown may elicit a ‘like’ from half of its viewers and a ‘Gurrrlll youz getting s0 0ld!!’ from extended family, which in turn elicits red cheeks and the temptation to delete the comment in hopes that none of ‘the cool kids’ read it. A status about a deceased grandma or a dying dog can wring out sympathy from a few dozen well-wishers in mere seconds. Just a few keystrokes before I hit ‘enter’ will not only share my pictures, videos, and thoughts with their intended audiences, but will make my fantastic sense of humor (“My feet angrily confronted me today about taking advantage of them. They told me they’re sick of me walking all over them lolz”) known to the general public. I can put just about anything on Facebook, and my friends and family can see it in mere seconds… As can anybody else.
Not only does Facebook divulge your information to third party companies and sites for money, all privacy settings revert to maximum exposure after each redesign. That’s fancy talk for ‘That balding middle-aged man whose friend requests you’ve been denying daily for the past month can see every little thing you do from the comfort of his mobile home.’ Next thing you know, he could find out where you live based on the school you’re listed as attending and the town your closest friends all claim to be from. When he shows up to your soccer game (which you posted the schedule for on someone else’s wall the other day), you’re up the creek without a paddle. No status, picture, note, comment, or even ‘like’ is safe from the omniscient cyclopean eye of the masses. Facebook’s Beacon initiative alerted all of your friends of any purchases you made on a third party site. Seeing as purchases on said sites ranged from ‘slightly rosy’ to ‘hot enough to make the devil sweat’ on the red cheeks scale, Beacon quickly warranted a public apology from Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s creator. It went something to the tune of ‘I promise that this will never happen again. At least not until I brain wash you a little more. Then it’ll happen again.’ Facebook’s Open Graph allows users to ‘like’ products and pages that are independent of Facebook itself. The idea is to encourage users to jump on the bandwagon and purchase what their friends like, while simultaneously alienating non-Facebook users by plastering the logo on any and every bit-based surface. There’s no way to opt out of Open Graph. If Facebook so willingly and publicly shared who your friends are, let alone their activity, with third party sites, what else are they sharing without your knowledge, and is there any way to keep it from happening? Unfortunately, the only way to shield your personal information from prying eyes is to deactivate your account, and even then, your information is still preserved somewhere in the frozen void of cyberspace: the final frontier.
Just as Facebook inconspicuously defaults your privacy settings and exposes you, it surreptitiously drains your social skills and leaves you floundering in face-to-face encounters. If I said “Dude, I have SO much homework” on the chat feature, “haha” would be a perfectly legitimate answer. While it is a form of acknowledgement for nearly anything on Facebook, fake laughter has no place in spoken conversation unless directed towards something that was specifically intended to be funny. The more you result to socializing on Facebook, the less real world interaction you engage in. There’s a reason the old adage “Practice makes perfect” has survived for so long. The less personal contact you have, the more difficult it becomes to pick up on social cues and body language. When you become accustomed to talking to people only in the safety of your computer screen’s dim glow, attempting to make conversation when you bump into them at school can be an awkward, sometimes frightening experience. Facebook slowly but surely drains the charisma, confidence, and social skills right out of you, probably selling them in bottles to suspicious figures in trench coats that lurk in the pitch-black alley behind the abandoned butcher shop.
Facebook may be useful in helping you to reconnect with your long-lost great aunt in Alabama while you pretend not to stalk the boy who sits next to you in Geometry, but overall, you lose a piece of your human nature in return for a few hours of pure nothingness. Facebook helps you kill time to the point that you could easily be tried in court as an adult, regardless of the fact that you’re still a minor. Social media serves little to no meaningful purpose, and its case isn’t helped by the fact that it can be a danger to your safety, your privacy, and your social wellbeing. They say ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but social media and its ever-looming shadow over every aspect of our life is definitely worth taking a screwdriver to.