Facebook: destructive or helpful?

Facebook BirthdayFacebook allowed users to share minute-long videos highlighting their posts and photos as the popular social networking site celebrated its tenth birthday on Feb. 4.

On that day in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard University classmates founded the site, which, in March 2013, had over one billion active users.

First-year St. Thomas student Adam Herritt has used Facebook since 2008. He says it has made establishing contact easier.

“If you need to contact someone, you use Facebook,” he said. “It’s easier than face-to-face communication.”

Herritt recalled planning his social life in person with friends during breaks at school.

“To ensure everyone was on the same page, you would call them. Now, you can just send them a Facebook message or text them.”

St. Thomas communications professor Jamie Gillies agrees that Facebook has greatly impacted lives.

“In a decade, Facebook has shifted from a social phenomenon and a convenient way to aggregate friends to a platform much of the world uses to deliver messages, engage in public dialogue on issues, and as a forum for determining what is popular, what is good and bad, and sometimes what is right,” he said. “Consider its impact in connecting and organizing people during tumultuous events like the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.”

First-year student Marissa Gillis joined Facebook six years ago to communicate with friends that live outside New Brunswick.

“After visiting Scotland, I’ve been able to communicate with friends from there,” she said. “I’ve found work through Facebook. A friend shared my profile on her wall to help me with babysitting.”

Gillis said Facebook brings people together, but the ability for rumours to rapidly spread concerns her.

Herritt also thinks Facebook can be destructive. He thinks sharing one’s personal issues on Facebook can be excessive.

“People post things they wouldn’t say to people’s faces,” he said. “I see Facebook as a photo album. You can share photos and reflect on your accomplishments and ups and downs.”

Gillies finds the discussion between public and private the most intriguing part of the embrace of social media.

“The serious privacy issues social media has raised continue to be a challenge,” he said. “I believe we need to be self-conscious when using social media. Most of us also live more publicly now, on Facebook, on Twitter and elsewhere, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon.”

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