Technology

Facebook highlights danger in the frequent use of social media

NEW YORK —Facebook does not only have the largest number of social media users, with nearly 2 billion active and daily users, it is the most popular social media on Earth.  As a business and a company, its survival depends on people continuing to use its service––and on a daily or weekly basis too.

This is why dozens of social media analysts and information, communication, and technology (ICT) professionals say they were shocked on Friday by an infrequent company blog post that painted some of the potential harm of using the social media service.

Titled Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?, Facebook, Inc. cited studies that recommended some of the likely shortcomings in using social media.

In one study, people who inertly read about others’ lives narrated feeling inferior about themselves. One option is “negative social comparison” when interpreting and understanding other people online, the company said, because “people’s posts are often more curated and flattering” than how they are in their real, offline lives.

The social media giant which reported $10 billion in revenue — its highest ever — in the last quarter, said, there is a probable solution: Don’t be a bystander to others’ lives. Use Facebook more and with friends and family.

Facebook users who spend more time on the social media platform— actually post and interact with close friends — experienced more positive effects, according to the company study conducted with Carnegie Mellon University.

“Simply broadcasting status updates wasn’t enough,” the post said. “People had to interact one-on-one with others in their network.”

Technology analysts and commentators argued that the Facebook post is as a result of some former top executives of the company outspokenness about Facebook’s conceivable negative effects on society and individuals.

Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president and ex-CEO, said recently, that Facebook exploits a “vulnerability in human psychology.”

Addressing the possible effect on kids, the company conceded that people are concerned about the short- and long-term effects of Facebook use on young people. The company, therefore, pledged $1 million toward research to “better understand the relationship between media technologies, youth development, and well-being.”

Many technology experts and human development observers praised the company for admitting that using social media may have unintended, negative consequences, but stated that it was uncommon for a company, one that classically showcases itself as a power for good, to indicate some of the threats in using its service.

As Facebook comes clean and admitting the risks and dangers associated with social media use, Analysts say there are several unrequited questions, and the main one being: Will Facebook, with new features and tweaks, be able to offset potential negative effects?

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.

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