What Are the Downsides of Facebook?by Sarah Morse
Facebook's positive effects are far-reaching and can include improved relationships, improved self-esteem and access to information. The social network also has its downsides, however -- mostly when it comes to magnifying real-life problems. Since you can shape your Facebook profile and interactions, your experience on the social network largely depends on how you use it.
Over-sharing on Facebook mostly occurs with young adults and teenagers, but is not limited to those groups. These bits of information reveal too much, and at the very least annoy others on the sharer's network. At worst, they can affect users' lives outside of the Facebook world. For example, if an 18-year-old college kid posts pictures of himself drinking alcohol, someone in the college administration could see him and he could get suspended. If a teenager talks about cheating on a test, her teacher could find out and flunk her. If an adult brags about a crime on Facebook and appears in court, that boast could be used against him. Over-sharing can also ruin job opportunities and even get you fired.
Bullying is a problem in schools, but can rise to the next level on a social network like Facebook. An upside of Facebook is that it is not anonymous, so bullies have to take credit for their comments. The downside, however, is that the bully does not have to hurl insults at his victim face-to-face. If he catches his victim doing something embarrassing, he can share it with his whole network, spreading humiliation quickly. Bullying occurs most often on Facebook with the teenage group, but adults can bully one another as well. Facebook's public platform means that someone's shame can spread more quickly than ever.
Facebook's social and sharing aspects make it easy to go from one thing to another, and before you realize it, you've spent 45 minutes just browsing Facebook. It's one thing to browse and lose time on occasion, but if you find yourself using Facebook so often that it negatively affects your studies or work productivity, you may be addicted. A study, "New Research about Facebook Addiction," from the University of Bergen in Norway reported in July 2012 that Facebook addiction affects younger users more than older, those who are socially anxious and insecure more than their secure counterparts, and women more than men. People can develop a dependency on Facebook, and, like any other addiction, become restless and unproductive when they cannot visit the site.
Spam becomes a problem because of all the "extras" on Facebook. Once you become a member and gain friends, you will begin receiving invitations for quizzes, horoscopes, games and more. This is great for people who enjoy participating in this kind of thing, but for many, it makes for a lot of extra junk on the social network, both in the form of status updates and invitations. Even a basic Facebook function like event invitations can lead to spam when users invite their entire friend network to multiple events in a short time.
Viewing positive pictures and updates from your seemingly successful friends may trigger feelings of envy, loneliness and misery, says a study from Germany's Humboldt University and Darmstadt's Technical University in January 2013 called "Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users' Life Satisfaction." The negative feelings occur most often in those not actively participating in a conversation with these successful friends. As a result, some decrease their Facebook usage while others turn to bragging, which in turn creates more envy.