Is Facebook good or bad for us?

The internet is arguably the greatest human invention ever and who can really argue? It consists a vast web of optical fibres and servers, which covers most of the world, connecting all 2.3 billion people who use it within less than a second. The exponential growth of the internet has made it possible for businesses to become global very quickly and to grow at an incredible rate. The best example of this is Facebook whose active users increased from just 1 million in 2004 to 1 billion in October 2012 and on the 17th May 2012, Facebook was valued at $104 billion! At first instance, it sounds great; but why would we not want everyone to be connected? Maybe in these times of exponential growth we are missing something. Is modern technology, mainly social media, adding to our already busy lives and making us lose sight of things which are most important to us?

There are many benefits to Facebook. For example, we can catch up with people who we have lost contact with in the past, organise events and, more importantly, increase our social interaction which has been proven to reduce stress and tension. However, there are disadvantages which we sometimes overlook. How often is it that people simply pass other people in the corridor or street, who on Facebook have been given the term “friend”? Surely a more appropriate label would be “acquaintance”. How many others could this label apply to? Admittedly, many people do not get lulled into the false idea that these people really are their true friends. However, some people end up diluting their relationships with their true friends or even losing them altogether. This leads to them having lots of “friends” both online and in the flesh but few, if any, ‘true’ friends. We should question whether we would really be friends with these people if it wasn’t for the digital connection between us all. How many of these people really have our best interests at heart?

This then begs the question of how this will change in the future. Some things are certain, for example, almost 700,000 new people have access to the internet every day and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The speed and ease of using the internet is also increasing daily. The obvious benefits of social media are increasing all the time. Furthermore, with 4G (faster mobile internet*) being released shortly in many major cities in the UK, the internet will become even more accessible on the move and who is to say that it will not be normal for people, in a decade or two, to have friends who they will never meet face to face in their entire life time. Yet, there is one thing that all Facebook users will do well to remember which is that social media should only be used to supplement our real life relationships rather than be a complete substitute for face to face interaction, as proper social interaction is a necessity for us all.

*faster than most houses in the UK get now through a wired connection (up to 30Mb/s).

Contributed by Jack Pearce