Although Facebook was created to have a positive impact in person to person communication, studies show that it could have a detrimental effect.
Facebook started out as a way for like minded students to share their life experiences and stay in touch. But are social networking sites enabling interaction or reducing it to a escapist experience, displacing real interaction in favour of an alternative reality?
Positive Impact of FaceBook
Social networking can enrich social lives for those separated from family and friends by long distances, bringing them together despite the physical separation. This has recently come to light in the number of people in the armed forces using YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter to stay in touch.
Online communication can help those with dysfunctional syndromes achieve a level of social interaction previously difficult or impossible. For some people, interaction with crowds is made easier if they do not actually feel the physical immersion.
Such sites also provide those isolated by disability or environment with a rich and fulfilling social life. For anyone who is unable to leave their own house, social networking has provided a great way to get in touch with people who have similar issues, as well as allowing them to stay in touch with existing networks of friends.
Finally, social networking sites can bring people together with varying backgrounds who might otherwise never have met, and then encourage them to extend that experience into real world social functions.
Negative Impact of FaceBook
Electronic interaction displaces the social interaction, keeping people apart – it is so convenient that people lack the drive to actually interact face to face. People are social animals, in the main, and removing that pillar can actually affect their social development, especially if started at a young age.
It also changes the way people interact, possibly producing changes that will eventually affect the evolution of social interaction. The lack of face to face communication undermines skills such as reading body language and other indirect communication facilities.
Mass electronic communication may lead to a lower quality of social interaction due to the sheer number of participants; the background level of gossip is likely to be higher than in face to face interactions. There’s also the inference that online information has less value somehow than real world information, although the same could be said of water cooler office gossip.
On Balance : How Should FaceBook Be Used?
As with other enabling technologies, such as email, web search engines, and online publishing outlets like Wikipedia, the overall message is that, in moderation, Facebook and other networking sites are a good thing.
They let people connect, whether they knew each other in the first place or not – staying in touch or making new friends. Yes, there are potential drawbacks in the form of very public cases where such friendships have degenerated into something more sinister, but the positives far outweigh them.
Success stories include various marriages, business deals, partnerships, and other very encouraging endorsements of virtual communication as a form of social interaction.
However, relying exclusively on electronic communication for social interaction is likely to damage rather than enrich lives. Everyone, at some point, with very few exceptions, needs the face to face contact in order to maintain their social skills.