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Social Networking vs. Society

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Walk into a room full of people and ask how many have a social networking account. Chances are, more than half of the room will raise its hand. Social networking has infiltrated our society, growing more quickly than could ever have been expected. For today’s teenagers, who have come of age in a cyber world, being online is expected. Not only teenagers are online, though. From children who have yet to hit puberty to senior citizens who have yet to understand chat speak; all ages are entering this fresh world. Yet, there are many dangers to this new frontier. Lack of face-to-face contact provides an impersonal feeling to potentially very personal conversations. Knowing exactly who one is talking to becomes very difficult. Bullying, adultery, fraud, and a variety of other misdeeds become easier when occurring online. While social networking claims to bring people together, it really swiftly and negatively affects our society.

A whole new form of adolescent cruelty has manifested due to the creation of the social network. Cyber bullying is prevalent problem in schools across the globe. According to a study by the National Crime Prevention Council, forty-three percent of teens have been bullied online (43 Percent of Teens Affected) A five year-old study from Singapore states that over ten percent of its students have been cyber-bullied, a number sure to have risen since then (Over 10 percent of students). The reason for the switch from playground to online bullying is the lack of face-to-face contact. The attacker cannot see the effects of their brutality until much later, and are therefore less affected personally. Consequently, teens that are targeted by this form of bullying are at a higher risk for depression than their attackers, a change from conventional bullying ("Depression high among youth). A number of suicides, such as that of quiet, 18 year-old Tyler Clementi, have also been linked to cyber bullying. Such tragedies would not be so easily accomplished without the assistance of social networking sites.

Another side-effect social networking is a phenomenon often referred to as “Facebook Depression” (Gordon). The symptoms are much like those of classic depression, i.e. mood swings, different friends, and changing habits, but it is brought about by excessive time online. This effect is understandable. When naturally self-conscious teenagers are handed a site where they can compare themselves with their peers, a loss of confidence makes sense. They can amass hundreds of friends without forming a single, beneficial, real relationship. At such a crucial point in a person’s development, are such empty connections, faulty comparisons, and the resulting depression really worth it? Teens love to use social networking sites because they love to connect with friends, but the overall effect on their well-being negates the value.

Social networking sites are also susceptible to fraud and identity mishaps. Pretending to be someone else is simple on practically anonymous sites like Facebook. To register, one must plug in a name, an email address, and an easily falsified birth date. One particularly tragic case of false identity ended in the suicide of a thirteen year-old girl, who was led on by a woman posing a young boy (Missouri Mom Indicted). Scams are also operated effortlessly, because remaining discreet is easy (Mar). If an account is hacked, the perpetrator has access to the victim’s virtual life: their friends, their posted information, their photos, their preferences. The obscurity of social networks allows for easy fraud and identity theft.

Supporters of social networking point to the stories of long-lost friends, reconnected, and long-lost family, found. These occasions are very rare, though, and such connections could be made through other sources, such as email. Do these few social-networking success stories really out-weigh the suicides, bullies, depression, and fraud?

A relatively new figure in our society, social networking is quickly yet subtly hijacking our culture. From teens to senior citizens, all ages are now online. Yet, it maintains risks that are often overlooked by most of its users. Suicides, depression, fraud, and a plethora of other side-effects can be attributed to social networks. Although social networks can draw people together, they often cause more harm than good.



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