‘Like’ if you don’t like Facebook

I believe we should change our habits, and enjoy the positive features while keeping in mind basic principles of safety, modesty and privacy.

By
August 2, 2012 21:56
Travellers use Facebook at a Lima hostel

Travellers using Facebook 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Pilar Olivares)

 
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‘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?

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The reason is that I witness irresponsible and reckless behavior on social networks and barely see debates on this issue within my social circles.

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.

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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 identities.

Another common claim is “I have nothing to hide.”

Arguable, but you certainly have what to protect – your family and your privacy.

In Israel, we are late in acknowledging the dangers to our children, because we live in a relatively safe and open environment.

We 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 pedophiles.

It’s about time that we strengthened our defenses.

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 services.

I see absolutely no reason to share your location. This may be exploited, now or in the future, by stalkers, lawyers or thieves.

Real 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 work.

Time spent on social networks may be at the expense of quality time with family.

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 tendencies.

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 all.

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.

The resulting guidance is to completely refrain from teacher-student interaction on social networks, and instead use closed and monitored school forums and designated educational networks.

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 teacher.”

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 out there.

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 share.

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 sayings.

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.

Adjust 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.

“I hate 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.

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