Student Writers; Irene C, Devon C, and Ben Z
Return to Fall 2010 Student Articles Menu
The increased use of social networking sites (SNSs) as a hobby, employee seeder and hacker’s dream has made Facebook a potentially hazardous site to be a member of. While naive and unwary Facebook users enjoy the benefits of the world’s most popular SNS, employers and hackers surf through profiles targeting unsuspecting individuals. What users do with the medium is directly in proportion with what can happen to them. Members engage in a trade off every single time they use it. While Facebook increases communication and connections between friends, it also increases the risk of procrastination, stalking, and other privacy breaches. Worse yet, employers are also using the medium to shorten their list of applicants by what they find, or don’t find on one’s page. Despite the many disadvantages of Facebook, it is still gaining demand and popularity in a variety of demographics. The following article explores the benefits and dangerous drawbacks of being apart of the Facebook phenomenon.
The invention of the Internet brought along with it a mind-boggling number of websites that are used for all sorts of things. Most of these websites and their services make our lives easier, but everything has its drawbacks and social networking sites, like Facebook are no exception. The controversy begins to swirl when users weigh the pros and cons of the site. Do the potentially hazardous risks of using Facebook outweigh the benefits and connectivity that it offers?
In today’s world, it’s not about who you know, but more so about the people that know and have a connection with you. Facebook has been the number one facilitator of that theory for more than half a decade. By now, anyone who knows anything about social networking uses Facebook everyday or at least has an account.
The reason there are 500 million people registered to the site is because Facebook gives users the ability to connect with people they see everyday or one's they haven't seen for years. Facebook is also a wonderful medium that allows users to share multimedia, blogs, general communications and other websites with each other, which also helps people keep in touch and build relationships.
There are some people out there who believe that being connected with the world is an, but I ask those people what were we doing ten years ago? We were finding ways of being more connected with each other. Whether you’re receiving event or game invitations, wall comments, or messages Facebook is achieving its goal “to create a richer, faster way for people to share information about what was happening around them" (Zuckerberg).
Since fine lines guard the boundaries of our public and private lives, knowing how to properly use Facebook’s privacy settings is crucial. Since Facebook is considered to be a high exposure website, Facebook employees encourage users to be on guard with potential threats. A user’s familiarity with security options or lack thereof will determine how useful or harmful the site is to them. Pop-up blockers and privacy settings can help protect users from attacks.
Benefits of being a Facebook member
All social networking sites offer individuals and companies opportunities to communicate with people that they would never otherwise receive, but the other benefits that Facebook offers its users are insurmountable. In a nutshell, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life" (Zuckerberg). Like most social networking sites Facebook, as a medium to connect with or meet new people is on top of its game. The social medium can also be oriented towards work-related relationships, intimate relations, or to connect those with shared interests.
What is unique about Facebook is one of its most used features, the news feed. The news feed highlights what's happening in your social circles on Facebook (Sanghvi). Unlike other social networking websites that only offer users a means to contact someone, Facebook also helps you maintain relationships with new and old friends by keeping up with them and what’s happening in their lives. Each Facebook user has a news feed that is full of information pertaining to their group of friends. In it you can find out when your friends birthday is, where the next party might be, who your friend is friends with, what your friends are saying to your mutual friends, and pictures or videos of your friends. The great thing about the News Feed is that they do not give out any information that wasn't already visible. Privacy settings remain the same and people who couldn't see your information before still can't see it.
Getting in touch and staying in touch with friends aren’t the only things Facebook can do for its users. Facebook is also a great tool for event invitations and surveys. By clicking “create event” any Facebook user can easily upload an event to the entire Facebook population, just their friends, or a particular group of friends. Many student organizations such as Greek chapters, clubs, teams and other groups use this feature.
Another benefit that is often overlooked is the self-image that an individual can build by simply being a member of Facebook. The website gives each of its users the opportunity to choose what they want to display and what they don’t want to, enabling them to be who they want to be. Michigan State University researchers proposed that individuals who use Facebook have a higher self-esteem than those who don’t because they are constantly in touch with and are able to make new friends. "… Facebook usage was also found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction." (Ellison, Steinfield, and Lampe)
Facebook can also help a business.
Risks of using Facebook
As with any SNS, possible threats lurk depending on what you post out into cyberspace. Most people do not realize that once something is posted online it will be out in cyberspace forever and most likely be vulnerable to hackers. Hackers can easily cause criminal havoc if they have access to a user's actual date of birth because it makes it easier for them to hack into credit card accounts with that type of information. If a hacker can get into your credit card account online, they will also have access to your billing address and phone number. This leaves too much at stake for a possible stalking to start. Like any other service, Facebook is not perfect and has come under attack by various groups and organizations on how safe their network really is.
Stalkers have been around for centuries now, some of which we know to be close friends of ours. Facebook is no different when it comes to the new age of stalker status as it gives way to over half a billion users around the world. Nowadays women and men alike are so eager to meet a new person whether to become friends or by taking it a step further. With Facebook, users can post any picture of either themselves or pose as somebody else. This is why it is absolutely imperative to only accept friend requests from people in which you have been in constant contact throughout your life as you never know who you may end up talking to. Younger users are more prone to being stalked over Facebook as they are very naive in the sense that they will post their address and phone number as well as update their status with the current lingo of "open crib." Having your current address and or whereabouts is a stalkers dream and makes it ten times easier for them and puts your life in danger.
Facebook in conjunction with third party applications also makes a terrible duo. Wall Street Journal reported that many of Facebook's popular third-party games and contests sell Facebook users information to other companies. During the week of March 9, 2009; Facebook was attacked a total of five times according to an article written by Carrie-Ann Skinner. Skinner goes on to address that “two of the hoax applications that have been downloaded by Facebook users include “F a c e b o o k - closing down!!!” and “Error Check System." "By downloading the app, users are giving hackers access to their profile and personal information, and also unwittingly forwarding fake messages to their friends, also encouraging them to download the programs” (Skinner). Many people can't fathom the risk they put not only themselves, but anyone he or she might know at risk as well. Continuing on with Skinner’s article, one will find that actual past Facebook chat conversations were also able to give insight to a person’s whereabouts. It seems as though Facebook is ever so changing its privacy settings to better its massive online community, however as their intentions seem good its final outcome might hinder others from continuing with the service as there seems to be a great deal of worry among the fellow Facebookers. One may think, “Well how do I avoid leaking out my personal information?” and the answer is fairly simple, know when to give out that information or better yet don’t give it out to the general public. Nothing in cyberspace truly private, if it’s online chances are that sooner or later others will be able to look it up and take one’s information and do whatever they might want once they have it.
Facebook has made personifying one’s profile a top-notch priority for the last few months, however in May of this year, Facebook hit another roadblock. George Deglin, a web security consultant, discovered an exploit that would allow a malicious site to immediately harvest a Facebook user’s name, email, and data shared with everyone on Facebook with no action required on the user’s part in which poses a major problem for everyday Facebook users (Kincaid). These sites often contain a virus known as malware which can be very tricky to remove from one’s computer because not only does it infect the mainframe, but also the executable programs which in turn causes the virus to spread throughout the whole system. Though Facebook has incorporated new ways of having one’s profile remaining private, “a recent survey from Consumer Reports found that 23 percent of Facebook users either did not know the site offered privacy controls or chose not to use them” (Wortham).
Watch this newscast on the risks of using Facebook.
View President Obama's take on Facebook.
The trend of employers scanning personal networking sites to gain insight on their “hirees” is becoming increasingly more popular as time moves on because of its availability and the fact that it is free. The traditional tool of background checks to learn about a potential employee is becoming outdated. The best source is going to a site that allows the employer to see into a person’s head. Facebook is somewhat of a diary for over 500 million people; each day users post daily statuses to let their friends and family know what’s going on in their life and how they're feeling. These types of posts really shed a lot of light onto a person’s character. Status updates however, do not paint a picture about a person as well as the photos and videos they put up. Facebook has many advantages, but there are also some risks that most people never take in to consideration when posting personal information on their site. Content that would be considered inappropriate can be far more detrimental to one’s career than one likes to give credit for.
According to an article written by Wei Du of MSNBC, (Du) 35% of hiring managers in the United States use search engines like Google to find information on job candidate’s personal history. Of that percentage, 23% use social networking sites like Facebook to look up applicants. Contenders with outstanding resumes, great experience, and a good image can and have been rejected because of content posted on their pages that was considered inappropriate and not best for the company’s rapport. This new tool is not only being used in the United States. All across Europe, countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and France utilize Facebook as a way to do some research on candidate’s “online reputation” (EurActiv). Their personal life and the way they conduct themselves in their private lives reflects a lot more about a person then their resume, experience, and education.
Since there is no legislation regarding this new type of “background check,” it is in no way, shape, or form illegal for hiring managers to use sites like Facebook to conduct their own research on candidates. Given that this is true, users should be aware that there are people keeping a close eye on what is posted. Information that is posted and later deleted or removed by the user are still available as well as it is always saved in archives. Lawyers often caution recruiters that using the site in any discriminative manner can lead to a lawsuit; this means that hiring managers can use Facebook to ensure that they are hiring the right person, however they cannot use the site to pick and choose who they want for the job just because they like the way they look.
Let’s say you get the job, the application process was smooth and your boss did not see anything too alarming on your page. Two weeks into the job, you are reprimanded for a mistake you made and your boss lets you have it. Then, you go to Facebook and write a nasty comment about him or her. The use of Facebook is not only used during the hiring process, but also pertains to how many companies monitor their employee’s to ensure that the private information of the company is not being shared and to supervise any inappropriate activities that their employees partake in throughout their employment. This is the case with many teachers who have Facebook accounts. In some states in the U.S., legislation is on the table to make it illegal for teachers to befriend their students. Most teachers are warned when they begin their term to avoid the situation at all costs because it draws a fine line between the trusted teacher/student relationship according to an article written in the Montreal Gazette (CanWest MediaWorks).
The information that users share with there friends can be detrimental to their career if caution is not used when deciding what should and shouldn't be posted. In today’s business world, over 23% of hiring managers have reported that they use SNSs to conduct their own type of background check in to one’s personal lives. It used to be companies had to pay other companies to find out what education, experience, and references a potential employee has. However, all of that information can be found on an applicants home page and is available for free. This practice is not illegal in any way and it is for that reason that countries all across the globe are taking advantage of this tool. Next time you go to post something on your page, stop and think about what effect the material may have on your career.
Like all things in this world, there is a good and bad side to the Facebook. The secret lies in how one uses this site; the status updates posted, the pictures that are shared, and the friends one has all paint a picture of the user. A bad picture or out of place comment could stop someone from fully excelling in their career or could even make them a target of a stalker. Those who continue to use Facebook after learning of the many dangers it offers must think before they post. They should ask themselves, if they would be comfortable with their mom or boss seeing it each and every time they share something. Although Facebook offers users an easy, quick and effective way to keep in touch, it also poses many threats that clearly outweigh the benefits of the site.
CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc. "Warning for teachers: Facebook can kill career." Montreal Gazette. 08 Mar 2008. Print.
Du, Wei. "Job candidates getting tripped up by Facebook." MSNBC. 14 Aug 2007: Web. 10 Nov 2010.
Eldon, Eric. “Security Issues Could Force Facebook to Slow Down Product Development.” Inside Network. 21 May 2010. Web. 06 Nov. 2010.
Ellison, Nicole. Steinfield, Charles. Lampe, Cliff. “The Benefits of Facebook ‘Friends:’ Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online Social Network Sites”, Journal of Computer-
Mediated Communication. Michigan State University. 2007. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.
Kincaid, Jason. “Yelp Security Hole Puts Facebook User Data At Risk, Underscores Problems With ‘Instant Personalization’.” Tech Crunch. 11 May 2010. Web. 06 Nov. 2010.
Sanghvi, Ruchi. “Facebook gets a Facelift” The Facebook Blog. 14 Nov. 2010.
Skinner, Carrie-Ann. “Facebook Hit by Five Security Problems in One Week.” PC World. 09 Mar. 2009. Web. 06 Nov. 2010.
Unknown. "Social networks put careers at risk, survey finds" EurActiv. 01 Feb 2010: Web. 10 Nov 2010.
Wortham, Jenna. “Facebook Glitch Brings New Privacy Worries.” The New York Times. 10 May 2010. Web. 05 Nov. 2010.
Zuckerberg, Mark. Facebook, 4 Feb. 2004. 28 Oct. 2010.