Thursday, 11 October 2012

How Facebook Damages Lives

I think that blessed Facebook was created as a way of swapping kitten pictures and for students to exchange idle gossip, and in that, it did remarkably well. Even in its later manifestations as SmugBook or the vehicle to declare loss of bodily lard, acquisition of sleep, self-pity or endless complaints about the job, it was not too bad. Tiresome, yes - but not bad. Even recent developments which cause international conglomerations to clamour for Facebook pages next to the spotty, smug or self-deprecating - that isn't too bad, if a bit tedious in the Spam Box. 

There is, I have discovered, a very dark side to Facebook. I would even go so far as to say something far stronger, that it seems to be the place that - if you want to discover evil - you only need log on. 

In my personal and professional life, I am fast gaining insights into the dark phenomena rife on Facebook. I am seeing people meting out such hatred and hurtfulness that I wonder if ever love could have existed between such people. If you want to become unhealthy obsessive about other human, you need only sit in a darkened room way too late and scavenge through their 'facebook' and get all the juicy updates. I have seen such pain and anger, not because people have been assaulted to their faces, but because they have read things on Facebook. 

Once upon a time, relationships would hit the skids and they either ended or mended. Now, this noble vehicle has become the macabre theatre of marital breakdown, bullying, abuse, libel and grotesque accusation. In the midst of Farmville and amusingly doctored imagery, you will now discover the fruits of utter hatred and its yield of despair. In the privacy of your own home, or indeed anywhere on earth as a result of smart-phones, you can say just about anything to or about anyone. The fact is, it seems to be the case that you can do more damage with a smartphone and a Facebook account than you can with a hammer and some measure of malice. 

The world will learn too late that what gets typed gets read and what gets read cannot quickly be forgotten - less so when you would wish it to be. Eventually, my own children will ask if they can have a Facebook account, the panacea of all life - and to be honest, I think I would rather send them unaccompanied to Jim'll Fix it than expose them to such a damaging arena. I thank God that I have never been a Facebook victim, but I know a growing number of those who are. Added to this, if you are not a Facebook victim, you may find that a daft outburst a year ago after a drink with friends will prevent you getting job, or else a careless comment under the wrong settings will cost you the job you do have. 

The solution is unclear, short of making the mistake of parents of teenage boys with certain editions from the printed press and banning it. The Church needs a voice in this dangerous world, a world made more dangerous by people who are not inherently bad or even intentionally malicious, but who simply have an outlet that they don't fully understand. 


  1. Hi David,

    There is a lot of sense in what you write. However, I think it's important that we consider Facebook is just a social network. It is just a tool used by people; a channel for communication.

    In actual fact, the source of the damage that Facebook can do comes from the words and images. These are created and published by people, just like us, who are flawed. Really, I think the criticism you rightly level is directed toward HOW Facebook is being used.

    I've worked in digital communications for many years and have seen charities, NGOs, churches and individuals use Facebook to share and encourage others. To do good things.

    I think Facebook can be a source for evil and a source for good. As can Twitter, Pinterest, email, text messaging, face-to-face conversations and cheery chats down the pub.

    These words are meant with respect but with a gentle warning that we don't demonise the website when really we should examine the hearts of others, and ourselves.

    That said, if a social network becomes dominated with words of hatred, envy and pride what is best to do? Should we leave it or counter the culture with whatsover be good, noble, praiseworthy etc...

    Interesting. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Thank you Serena - you do well to remind us of the good that these means of communication can do. A useful balance to my words indeed, thanks! And for the record, readers, I agree with her!

  3. Thanks for writing this Dave. I left Facebook a year and a half ago, and really don't regret it.

    I do understand the balancing view of Serena above,and think it is extremely well put, but there seems to be the odd mirroring of a the way a person's mind/choices/morality get switched off in a physical mob when on Facebook - maybe a virtual mob? It just seems so much harder to maintain a calm outlook and reaction to really quite trivial remarks or comments or posts by others.

    The physical absence of the other I'm sure contributes to this - you may not be anonymous in the strict sense of their knowing your name and that you are the source, but when you aren't hearing their tone of voice, seeing their eyes and body language, you can really misread and overreact. Oddly even worse than with email, which is so much balder, or the phone where you can at least pick up tones and are strongly reminded that it is a PERSON you are talking to - most often someone you know and thought you liked (usually) or are prepared to give benefit of doubt to...

  4. I agree that FB can be used for the nastier side of life. However I am fairly confidant that you have never been the type to sit in a coffee shop/pub and gossip/bitch. These people are just doing what they always did it is just that now EVERYONE they know from close friends, Aunty Mable, work colleagues and vague acquaintance can hear that conversation & re visit over & over again.

    Whilst it can be used for the negative those people are only publishing what they were already saying & gossiping about I suspect. Back in the day I think it used to be called 'washing your dirty laundry in public'. If FB did not exist I would have lost touch with many people. I have found it to be an excellent way to keep in touch with many more people than I would have time to do otherwise. Also to re connect with many I had lost touch with which has been a joy.

    Many people on here will not know that we recently, 9 months ago, moved from England to Canada. I have been able to use FB to keep my girls informed of what is going on at their old school as they are too young to have their own accounts. We are able to feel in touch with what is going on in our old town. I post many many photo's and lots of updates about our daily life. Mainly the differences I find & of course the weather (I'm English!)People can hide my individual posts or chose to hide all of them & just look at my wall when they want to. The same with my photo's. However the overwhelming response I get is, 'keep sharing, we love seeing your new life' so I do. I am sure at the 12 month point I will post less but for now I am grateful to FB book & I love the way I can use it to keep in touch & keep people in touch with The Murray's BIG Canadian adventure.

    I shall continue to hide the gossip & nastiness I do not wish to participate in and take the good.

  5. I have spent some time today thinking about your post David as my first reaction was WHAT!! Having commented many times on your blog and usually in total agreement with many of your observations and needed to take some time to digest the fact that this was something I totally disagree with.

    I am glad I came back to see if anyone had commented and completely agree with both Shona and Serena.

    Facebook has been a complete life line to me over the last four and a half years. It has often (especially before I joined twitter) been the only means of communication I have been able to manage, because of the fact that you can manage your communication.

    I totally agree with the points made about it being abused as everything in life appears to have the capacity for. I think Shona's point about people now gossiping 'in public' has helped me to really work out which people I do and do not want to associate with.

    With regards to young people going on it - well my son will be entering the fbworld at the end of this month when he turns 13 but as I did with my niece when she lived with us, I shall have complete control of his account and he knows that I am savvy enough to keep and eye out for any sort of duplicate accounts, etc which I know is one way some kids try and get out of their parental control.

    As with all things it is just a case of moderation.

  6. Hi Jane, thank you for this and every visit and comment. It is allowed for us to disagree from time to time. My post is based on some very real and raw experiences of late, but it is right that balance is drawn and I thank the other commenters for striking that balance so ably.

    I am the first to acknowledge the benefits that I gain from all social media, both in terms of personal contact with good people, but also in terms of the propagation of this blog, for example. However, it seems to be an almost unique Facebook problem that giving an unmoderated forum for everyone to say just about anything without recourse to social norms has created, for me, something of a monster.

    Would I ditch my Facebook account? Only because I got bored of people boasting, that's about it. Would I let my kids have an account? Only after 13, and even then through gritted teeth!

    Yes, Facebook is a valuable lifeline for most. In the wrong hands, sadly, it turns into something more akin to a garotte.

  7. so sorry to hear of the raw experiences you have had of late and thank you for making me think a little more about the use of it, especially with the imminent addition of my son x.



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