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Facebook: The Focal Point of Communication

Introduction

Facebook has grown from being a place where you can passively communicate with people to being what is considered as the focal point of communication. It allows people to easily keep up with their friends and family, and makes things like creating plans for parties and giving out invitations much easier. As time has gone on, people have become more and more involved with the social network, and have started to rely on it much more for all of their communication. For example, if you use Facebook even a little, there are probably at least a few people you really only communicate with using its system now. While we do still have our friends in real life and everything, Facebook just makes it much more simple to drop in, say a few things and drop back out again so you can continue on with what you were doing. Along with this, its ability to easily share things with everyone at once gives it that viral factor, letting you get messages out to many people without having to go one by one and call them up or send out letters.

While it may seem like everything about Facebook is on the up and up, I still have my own doubts. While it is hard to argue that the social network is beneficial and gives a lot of things we otherwise would not have when it comes to communication abilities, it also drags us down at the same time. Through this article I want to look at some of these things and why they are a problem.

Online Communication is Not the Equivalent of Real Life Socializing

People often try to argue that this is not true, but it really is. When we are talking to someone online, we do not treat it nearly the same as if we were talking to them in real life. A lot of the time our brains do not treat the situation the same because we can not see the other person, and therefore do not associate the same things like empathy and sympathy to them. If you really want to see this in action, take in to consideration how people treat each other online. Even those who would not be rude to one another in real life, such as in school, will often bash each other online and do other hateful things. This is considered as “cyber bullying,” and it is a pretty big problem. This is not to say that nobody that bullies people online would do it for real as well, but it is much easier online because there is that separation between what is real and what is not.

If you need another example of this, take a look at “trolling” online, something that is becoming more and more popular. This is yet another form of showing a distinction between what is real and what is not. A majority of people who troll, despite popular opinions, would not do the same if they were facing the people they are trolling in real life. I would not say that this is because they are afraid, but more so because of how we perceive the two situations. In real life you can see when someone is getting upset with you or is hurt by what you say. Online, however, this does not happen; the best you can do is guess at what your statements are doing to the other person, and often times we are wrong in these assumptions.

But what does all of this have to do with the fact that online communication is not the same as real life socializing? Psychologists have long shown that humans are much more happy when we converse with one another. Those who are completely secluded are more prone to going in to depression, and it makes sense. After all, everyone wants to have other people that they can associate with. The issue here, though, is that we are essentially replacing our real life friends (at least those that we do not hang out with on a regular basis) with the online equivalent, which is not truly the equivalent. In other words, we are cutting down on the amount of real socialization we are going through and we are instead boosting the amount of non personal socialization, which is not nearly as beneficial.

Event Planning is Less Personal

Planning events like birthdays and weddings used to be a very personal thing. People would write up and send out letters that were written by hand, and you would get your invitation through the mail where you would be told when and how to RSVP. Now, though, many people skip all of that altogether and go straight to sending out mass invites through Facebook, with a link in them that enables the recipients to easily RSVP with just a click of a button. This really depends on how you look at it, because while I do understand that the latest methods are much more efficient and faster than the previous ones, there is no personal touch anymore. The message you get is the same as everyone else's, and the only thing you really get to remember the event by is the email or message via Facebook. There is nothing to hang up or store in a memory book (unless you print it out), and that just takes away from its personal touch and meaning.

The alternative, writing out and sending messages through the postal service, was slower and had its faults, but it had that personal touch that added a lot of value to it. Even if you missed out on the invitation, someone would likely have called you to either check in or give you a heads up, so in the majority of cases this would still not be an issue. And with this, you are still getting in your social activity. Because of this, I do not necessarily thing that what is faster and easier is necessarily the same thing as what is better.

Cyber Stalking is Easier

When I use the term “cyber stalking,” I am including research that people do to figure out who you are as a person. As a very controversial thing, for example, many employers now search for their potential new hires on social networks to see what they do in their free time, see who (or what type of people) they associate with, and just all around figure out who they are. This has led to issues with a large group of people, and it also often brings up privacy concerns. After all, what you do with your own time should be between you and yourself; what you do at work is all that should matter to your employer, right? Sadly, this is often not the case, and rightly so.

When you act out in place like Facebook, one of the things people often misinterpret is that they view it as being a private area. The issue with this is that if you have everything out there in the public, everyone else can view it as well. If you are hired to represent a company and you have been seen by others within that company or others that you will have to associate with, you really need it to be in a good light. Otherwise, while you may not have acted out at work, it can and will affect both work and business relationships. After all, if someone has been putting down my company and its values, do I really want to hire that person and trust them to handle my business operations? Probably not. This person could easily destroy the company's reputation, and that alone would cost more than hiring them did.

We can also take things out to a more personal level, away from businesses. Cyber stalking through social networks is easier than it is personally because you can track people through their friends and family. Many people will tag photos, give locations as to where they are or have been, where they work and go to school, etc. Each of these things gives a stalker an even closer look at where their target is located. Furthermore, it gets a bit worse than this because the fishing net also allows them to start targeting the friends and family as well. The more people communicate through their public Facebook wall, the more potential viewers can learn about them and their relationships, and that can cause some pretty big problems. While you can gain some information about people through phone books or watching them, Facebook makes it much easier, faster and more efficient.

Everything is Stored

Everything you say to someone on Facebook is stored in their servers. If you send a message and then decide you want to take it back, there is no way to do so. I would argue that this is even worse than accidentally saying something to someone in real life, as at least with that situation there is not a lingering copy of what you said just floating around, waiting for them to run across it again or share it with other people. I can not even count the number of times I have seen situations where people have said something to someone that they wanted to take back but it was too late. Things are so easy to share, and with Facebook you can even tag people in photos and such, ensuring that everyone knows exactly who said what and when.

I think that just as humans, this is something we should want to stray away from. After all, everyone has said something they came to regret later. Sometimes it is because we do not think about things thoroughly before we say them, and sometimes we are just so depressed or angry that we do not even care. Later on, though, these things can start to do some damage, and minimizing the amount of these situations that are out in the public is the best course of action to handle damage control. After all, it only takes one wrong statement to completely destroy your reputation!

The Trust Factor

I know a lot of people on Facebook that have friends they do not know in real life. With some of these people, the friendships are solely online and they are much more open than they would otherwise be. After all, we can share things with people we will never meet that we would not share with those who know us personally, as the risk is much lower. For example, we can ask for advice on things that could get us in trouble, or discuss things that we just would not feel as comfortable with speaking with friends and family. Going online and discussing these things with random strangers gives a way to get some great insight and input, while not causing the awkward feeling that would otherwise end up being felt from day to day if you asked someone closer to you.

The problem here is that what happens online does not always stay there. Much like the cyber stalking scenario discussed a bit earlier, when you open up to people online you have no idea what they may end up doing with the information you have shared. Some people use that to blackmail others in to doing things for them, threatening to send off their messages or confessions to parents, their school, friends, etc. Others will simply post them online because they find them humorous. Much like you would be cautious with who you talk to in real life about potentially embarrassing things, the same thing should be done when sharing things online. After all, you never know what is going to come back to you and you do not know in which way it will come back.

Conclusion

Facebook has its good qualities, but a lot of people end up taking it for granted. People end up not being as cautious online as they would be in real life, and it brings up some potentially devastating problems. We often view our way of dealing with friends online as being the same as dealing with them in real life, when really this is not true. What we do in real life is not logged for everyone to see forever, nor is it organized in a way that makes it easy to sift through and nit pick at things people like or dislike. Many people have not been hired solely because of something they said on Facebook or because of some of their pictures, and relationships have also been destroyed over the social network.

At the end of the day, people need to realize that what we are doing online is not the same thing as in real life. The online behavior can have consequences above and beyond just someone not liking what was done, and can lead to potentially bad things. Along with this, it is important to keep in mind that while socializing online with friends is still a form of communication, it is not nearly as beneficial as meeting with people and forming stronger bonds through real life camaraderie. At the end of the day, there is only one thing that grants the full benefit of being social: spending time offline together.

Social_Networks


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