Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Facebook: Blessing, Curse, or Both?

Yesterday, there was an article on MSNBC titled "Docs warn about teens and 'Facebook depression': Some teens feel they don't measure up, warns American Academy of Pediatrics." And my two immediate reactions were: a) It's not just teens; and b) I am so glad my daughter changed her mind about getting a Facebook account.

In a nutshell, researchers have "discovered" what many of us already knew, that Facebook is a minefield for kids (and adults) with low self-esteem (like me!) -- and can trigger depression. (If you are the parent of an adolescent or two who is on Facebook or is considering getting a Facebook account, read the article, which is short, and/or watch the embedded Matt Lauer interview with a pediatrician on what parents can do to help their kids safely navigate the social media minefield.)

"If you really didn't have that many friends and weren't really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples' status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset," said one 16-year-old girl. Yup.

(Seriously, I was once near tears when I saw a "friend's" pictures of her Christmas party, to which we were not invited to, though I thought we were friends. And I often find myself envious of certain "friend's" seemingly always exciting, jet-setting, filled with dozens or hundreds of friends lives, even though I know I shouldn't -- and that the poster is probably really insecure and needs to make himself feel really glamorous and important.)

That said, there are many benefits to being on Facebook, such as connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures and articles, exchanging ideas, and promoting one's blog. Indeed, thanks to Facebook I have re-connected with many old friends, made new friends, and have been turned on to many great articles, books, and good causes. And for that I am grateful. But some days.... Some days I just want to delete my Facebook account -- Twitter too. Though I can't because of work. (Indeed, one of my editors recently told me that I was her social media star -- and that the reason I keep getting assignments is that I use social media to promote my articles.)

So what do you all think of Facebook -- and why? I am really curious to know. Even if you don't like commenting, I would appreciate a comment.


Michael said...

Facebook and Twitter can be great, for all the reasons you cited. I've really enjoyed using them both personally and professionally. But they are minefields. No one is anonymous anymore, it's too easy to be on display to the world. I worry about my own kid using social media when he's older. But like anything, moderation is the key. It's too easy to get wrapped up in the competitive side of social media. I would tell my son that it shouldn't be taken too seriously and that real world relationships are most important. I guess using the "we didn't have the Internet when I was your age" could be useful.

Anonymous said...

Mostly a blessing for all the reasons you mentioned. I like being connected to those I don't have hours of telephone or face-to-face material, but still relish the gentle touch of their life in mine.

Dave S. said...

By coincidence, there is this discussion on the Washington Post (,ay need to register).

Facebook is a blessing, a curse, a floor wax AND a dessert topping.

J. said...

@Michael, thank you for the thoughtful comments. As to using the phrase "we didn't have the Internet when I was your age," I'm afraid it would only garner serious eye-rolling and looks of pity.

@Anonymous, I feel the same way. Nicely put.

@Dave S., maybe Zuckerberg should have called it Shimmer. (Will go check out the WaPo discussion now, if I can access it.)

Erin said...

Wow. I've never thought of it like that. But it DOES make sense. On the flip side, my sister in law and I were noticing that one girl in particular just posts status updates and pictures...and man, it takes a lot of work to upload all of those pictures. Part of me wonders if they're spending more time taking and posting pics and status updates than actually living. I always assumed that the people who posted less were either a) private, or b) too busy to get online.

Another David S. said...

I'm not on Facebook, and I don't plan to be. Here's one reason why:,19753/