Facebook: Friend or foe?

Molly Cahill

I love Facebook. Aside from the fact that I don’t know half of my “friends,” which as I understand it, is a common affliction, I doubt I would talk to half the people I do without it.

You can meet people from all walks of life through Facebook. Odds are, ones you would never cross paths with normally. Other times, you find that the people you thought you knew have more quirks than you might have expected. It is a great social networking site, and, as we’ve seen with the now not-so-recent Haiti disaster, a great way to drum up aid for a cause. For instance, you can be one of the super cool kids and buy sweet corn on Farmville, or you can be a square by donating to boring old Red Cross by text.

But do we use it too much? As the proud owner of a “Crackberry,” I know I check Facebook several times a day, as often as I want. These days, not having a Facebook page can be likened to not having a social security number. In other words, you don’t exist.

Two weeks ago, in an attempt to fool myself into thinking I care about politics, I decided to watch the State of the Union address. At first, I thought it would be boring as hell, but just a little bit into the president’s speech, I began to notice people in the audience hunched over their phones tip-tapping away. While I cannot prove it, I have to wonder what the odds are that at least one of them was Facebooking.

I would like to be optimistic and say it’s a good thing that with the typing of a few keys, we can tell people all across the world that Uncle Ned had a bean and cheese burrito for lunch. Or that we can become a fan of “I bet I can find 1 million people who want Cannibalism legalized” and join a vegetarian group in one breath, but I can’t. I can certainly laugh about it, which I do, but there’s nothing remotely funny about a woman in Canada who lost her disability benefits over some pictures her insurance agency found on her profile.

Remember even though your security setting are “friends only,” it is still the Internet, and once you send something out there, anyone with a bit of skill in hacking can find it. The Internet is an amazing thing, but just as you can find an old classmate from high school, some stranger can find you, too.

The site is considered by many to be a wonderful social networking tool. But a lot of people are forgetting it is only that: a tool. It should not be used to replace normal human interaction. As creatures, we are social animals and our mental health depends on being able to interact with other human beings. Having 300 friends in your Facebook friends list is all well and good, but if that is the only platform through which you know someone, are they really going to be there to drive you to the hospital when you get sick? Or is that guy in India who sends you olive trees in Farmville going to help you put together those shelves from Ikea?

Take it from someone who uses the Internet to stay in touch. Meet people on Facebook but get to know your friends in real life.

Molly Cahill is a senior pre-journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].