‘What are you writing about?” my son asked. “Facebook,” I proudly replied,
expecting his support. Instead he shrugged and said: “Don’t!”
When Facebook is
part of your daily routine, I can understand why you may feel that the subject
is trite. Why waste time analyzing something that is all fun, funny, friendly,
witty and happy?
The reason is that I witness irresponsible and reckless
behavior on social networks and barely see debates on this issue within my
Social networks pose real dangers and expose us to
profound consequences. Misuse may cost us money, relationships and even
our lives. I believe we should take a close look at the pros and many cons, and
rethink our habits and guidelines.
What are the advantages of social
networks? They help us stay informed and socially connected and serve as a
platform for sharing information, expressing ourselves and marketing our ideas
and products. They also satisfy our natural inquisitive nature and are simply
interesting and fun.
Now for the bad news.
What would you do if
you saw a strange man taking pictures of your daughter and asking for her name
and birthday? Call the police, right? Yet, many of us post photos of our
children, together with all their personal information.
You may claim
that only friends see your posts. Well, some of your 537 “friends” are not
really your friends and some are even scammers with fake
Another common claim is “I have nothing to
Arguable, but you certainly have what to protect – your family and
In Israel, we are late in acknowledging the dangers to our
children, because we live in a relatively safe and open environment.
are not in constant fear of child abductions and our kids are not told, “Never
speak to strangers.”
Unfortunately, we do see our share of child abuse,
as was demonstrated this week with the large-scale arrest of suspected
It’s about time that we strengthened our
When you post photos of your daughter in a bathing suit, you
endanger her, compromise and violate her privacy and chance being faced with her
difficult questions in the future.
If you ask me, don’t post photos of
your kids at all.
Social networks are easy platforms for identity theft,
and gold mines when it comes to data mining and selling data to third parties.
Stating your full birth date provides identity thieves with a key piece of
information used frequently for identity confirmation in phone
I see absolutely no reason to share your location. This may be
exploited, now or in the future, by stalkers, lawyers or thieves.
world problems such as abuse and bullying exist online and are sometimes even
enhanced on social networks. The medium seams virtual, but the pain is real. For
this and many other reasons, children, even when old enough legally, should not
use social networks unsupervised.
Beyond physical threats, there are
other serious consequences.
The addictive nature of using social networks
may hurt our real social life, grades in school and efficiency at
Time spent on social networks may be at the expense of quality time
Seemingly inappropriate or sensitive relations may trigger
what is referred to as “Facebook jealousy.” Social networks are becoming a
commonly cited factor in divorce courts.
Exposure to positive experiences
of friends can lead to envy. While our friends show off their wonderful family,
new car and glorious vacation, we forget that people tend to post the good and
not the unhappy aspects of their life.
This can lead to depression,
insecurity, pessimism, social isolation and even suicidal
Another unfortunate impact identified with social networks is
stress. We constantly need to entertain and be witty, fear missing out on
important social information and are pressured with the sensitive task of
accepting or rejecting friends.
But that is not all. Oh, no. That is not
The Education Ministry has identified its concerns:
over-accessibility of information, violation of equality of communications and
the blurring of boundaries between teachers and students, between personal and
professional and between appropriate and inappropriate.
guidance is to completely refrain from teacher-student interaction on social
networks, and instead use closed and monitored school forums and designated
Some teachers adhere to the rules, some don’t and
some never heard they exist. A friend recently told me: “I don’t care about the
rules. It brings me closer to my students and makes me a better
Real-life principles such as respect of privacy and
intellectual property, proper use of language, adherence to accepted norms and
codes of conduct, honoring the other, and cultural awareness are all very much
relevant to social networks.
Many of these values that we unfortunately
don’t excel in are also violated online.
Freedom of speech in an open
forum boosts the exposure of inflammatory views of various hate groups such as
procrime, defamation and Holocaust denial.
There are some twisted minds
These are real life problems. Social networks just supply the
platform where these views can surface and circulate.
My conclusion is
that for our physical and mental well-being we should significantly reduce the
time spent on social networks and minimize the level of personal information we
Here are some practical recommendations: Post when you really have
something to say. Remember that everyone can find what they need on the
Internet, so refrain from obsessive posts of quotes, jokes and
Don’t over-inform on trivial daily behavior. Nobody cares what
you ate for breakfast.
Don’t post every new photo during your vacation.
Post a link to a Webalbum when you get home.
Don’t post links to songs,
unless you can’t expresses your overwhelming emotions in words.
your privacy settings, limit your circle of friends and differentiate the level
of sharing by creating groups of friends.
Facebook doesn’t “like” us. Its
goal is to maximize profit by expanding our dependency on the network and
influencing us to go on liking, sharing, posting and tagging.
Facebook,” a friend of mine posted on Facebook last week. I do too, but I don’t
preach eliminating its use altogether. I believe we should change our habits,
and enjoy the positive features while keeping in mind basic principles of
safety, modesty and privacy.The writer is a former Israel Air Force
pilot and founder of Cross-Cultural Strategies Ltd, which focuses on bridging
cultural gaps in international cooperation.