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Should you be on Facebook?

If you were asked the question “Do you use Facebook,” the answer might be obvious. Perhaps a more valid question would be the number of times you are on Facebook during the course of a day. Current technology enables us to utilize the internet as a means for communication (or networking) with friends. This action may seem second-nature to many, but some are arguing that social network websites are leading future generations down a path that should not be traveled. A path that is characterized by “short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity.” Does this belief have validity? Although terms such as “Facebook addict” are often coined, this belief has no backbone to be realistic.

Lady Greenfield, from the article ”Facebook and Bebo risk 'infantilising' the human mind,” emphasizes that using social networking sites alter the minds of children, creating a short attention span and making them in some sense an introvert. However, it should be mentioned that most users on these sites are not children, but teenagers at the youngest. It is known that one’s mind is mainly shaped during an adolescent age. According to an online education agency (Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency), “brain research tells us that the first three years of life are a critical period in a child's development. Early experiences help determine the child's brain structure - shaping the way he or she learns, thinks and behaves for the rest of his or her life.” According to this, if any person exhibits short attention span or has an anti-socialistic personality, then more than likely these were developed during the first few years of their childhood or they were born with attention deficit disorder.

Greenfield also makes the point that Facebook often lead people to confining themselves from the “outside world” and therefore become less interactive. However, many use these or similar sites just as a means for communicating to friends that they otherwise cannot (due to distance or lack of time to communicate on the phone). In some aspect, they are actually closer to people in comparison to if they had not used a networking site.
She also notes that as a result of networking sites, current minds will be “different from those of previous generations.” This may be true, but it is due rather to changes in culture and society, not just technology. Today’s society is much more fast-paced than 40-50 years ago. For example, the 1950s were a time when many were “socially conservative,” in which many believed that the government played a big factor in maintaining a civilized world. This period was also marked as “the decade with the least musical innovation.” These are two aspects that seem to contradict current society. Today, people are less conservative, often even blaming the government for the state of the country. Also, current music plays a major role in culture. It would be nearly impossible to spend a day on a college campus and not see numerous people listening to their mp3 players. As a result, the demeanor and minds of the current generation don’t parallel past ones, but technology is not the number one contributor.

Greenfield believes that due to the ease of communicating on networking sites, “real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitised and easier screen dialogues.” Although communicating online may be easier in some ways than its counterpart, personal communication skills will not become obsolete. For example, the process of interviewing for jobs will most likely remain a requirement. Therefore, teachers will continue to teach interpersonal skills to their students.

With the rapid development of technology, the world has seen a boom in the use of online social networking sites such as Facebook. Although seemingly harmless, Lady Greenfield (professor at Lincoln College in Oxford) has proposed that these websites are ultimately detrimental because they will cause children to have short attention spans and make them less interactive than they should be. However, most users are not children, and their ways of thinking are usually shaped during the first three years of their childhood. Also, teachers will always instruct their students on communication skills, so in turn they will not be less interactive. It should also be noted that since these websites are relatively new, there is no evidence of these claims.

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I personally have always been someone to look past current fads simply because they are popular. Not to say that I don't use facebook and don't interact online with my friends, but I do try and keep use of these technologies to a low. Interaction is the key to developing social skills. Even though it is true that there are multiple "critical stages" in which children develop their attributes and social skills, the teenage years of someone’s life are certainly important in learning about interaction with others. For example, we begin to hear more and more about how some person broke up with their girlfriend over AIM or even text, and these events create a gap in social interaction between two people. Communication is the base of any relationship. No wonder the divorce rate is so high today. It is not uncommon for someone to deflect a potentially uncomfortable situation to something like email or text (I personally can think of a few occurrences where I sure didn’t want to talk to someone face to face), it happens all the time and frankly it is completely natural. That is not to say that it is right. Confrontation can lead to very strong communication skills in the future, and one who talks face to face with someone not only becomes more able to express their ideas, but also becomes quicker at speaking and thinking (it is certain that instant messaging in some instances is surely not an instant matter). Speaking and thinking well face to face is something that will help you in an interview or similar situations.

I definitely agree that we are in fact closer to our peers when using tools like facebook and myspace, as the internet is a tool that connects the entire world; everyone is our neighbor. And no one can argue your point about the minds changing not due to the technology alone, surely there are other factors that change society, though technology may be the most popular- and in some cases easiest- to talk about. It seems as though earlier generations are trying to blame the new technology for this change simply because they did not have it. It is said that many humans are resistant to change, and technology is constantly and rapidly changing society.

This being said, I think that these technologies are great, as they provide a way for us to talk to each other easily and quickly. However, they almost need to be used in moderation- certain situations simply need to be dealt with in person; people need to maintain the typical connection created through everyday talk.