Why are social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace, so popular? What is it that drives people to join these sites which can actually be quite invasive to your personal privacy?
There is a simple answer – you connect to all your friends in one go and you can interact with them on an almost personal level, no matter where they are. And with these sites there is an opportunity to meet new friends from all over the world in the same way as “pen pals” wrote to each other in the past.
But there is something more and it goes back to our instincts. Let me explain.
Ever since before we could walk upright, humans have lived in tribes or groups. We have always needed to bond with other members of our species because that is how we developed into being the dominant animal on the planet. We hunted and gathered together, we reared our young together and we survived because of it.
Over time, we have moved from the trees, to living in caves and then to developing agrarian methods of food production. This again is something we did together. We built towns and villages and, over time, developed new methods of living but the constant has always been social interaction with others of our species. This has served to propagate the species and bring diversity into our gene pool. It allowed the strong to find food whilst the weaker members of society were protected from normal predators.
Technology developed with our increasing intelligence and we used this to protect and enhance our “tribes” – this is why we have wars because we want our tribe to be the dominant one.
This situation evolved over time until the 1980’s when there was a sudden shift in the psyche of humans, especially in the west. It didn’t happen overnight in terms of a single human being’s existence but in the scheme of our evolutionary development it was in the blink of an eye. We became oriented around greed and selfishness.
I would say that this was due to the influence of two people, namely Ronald Reagan as President of the United States of America and Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. These two people, between them, told us that there was no such thing as “community” and that everyone was responsible for themselves. As this notion took hold, so a culture of greed and selfishness became ingrained upon the peoples of the world, particularly in the “developed” nations.
People also join social networking sites for business purposes. Nowadays, the demand for services like https://instaprivateviewer.com is relevantly high. As such, people are taking this as an opportunity for other services and businesses.
At the same time, technology has allowed us to become insular within our lives. Theoretically it is possible to live, to earn, to shop and to go about your life without leaving your house. You can work from home, you can shop for everything you need from home and you can communicate with your friends and family from home. There is no need to actually go into the real world at all.
So what has this got to do with social networking sites? An awful lot, actually.
Because we have lost our sense of community we are denying something that is within our own nature – to work together for the benefit our “tribe”. So in order to fulfill the void that is left, we use Facebook and MySpace and other sites to give us a sense of belonging and a sense of sharing.
Take a look at Facebook. There are a huge number of groups on there, some of them just devoted to making as many “friends” as possible. I joined some of these groups and randomly requested people to be my “friend” just to see if they would. In less than a week, I had over one hundred new “friends”.
I took this experiment one stage further and started looking at groups that I would never consider joining but nonetheless randomly requested members of those groups to become my “friends”. At the time of writing this, two weeks into my little experiment, I have over five hundred “friends”. The strange thing is, I have actually only met or had any real interaction with about sixty of them (people that I have actually met either on a personal or professional basis).
The thing about these social networking sites is that they can be used by the unscrupulous for many ways. There have been a number of recent cases where Facebook, Bebo and MySpace have been used for bullying, harassment and intimidation. A lady had a fake profile put on Facebook which claimed she was a prostitute and it even gave her mobile number and there was a man who suffered distress when a former friend created a false profile and suggested that he was a homosexual.
Even worse, there has been at least one instance where a child has taken their own life because of bullying on a social networking site. That was perhaps the darkest day for our wonderful new technology.
But it isn’t only bullying. These sites have huge potential for fraudsters to prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable. Again, going back to Facebook, there is a little thing on there where you can say what your status is. Recently, when my mother passed away, I stated on my profile that I was sad because I burying her.
Whilst this brought genuine condolences from people that I knew, it struck me afterwards that had I begun my experiment before my mother’s passing and had posted the same message, would I have someone of less than honest character act as a friend in order to defraud me of any inheritance.
At times of bereavement, and at other times of personal stress, people become vulnerable and accept guidance, assistance and condolence without thought. We’ve all heard stories of people befriending widows and widowers just to get their money – I am sure there are cyber scams of this type but that we haven’t heard of them yet.
It is our need to be part of a community, any community, that drives our vulnerability in this sense. Because so few us no longer take an active part in the physical community in which we live we have extended our needs to our technology.
Of course there is the fact that advertisers have caught on to the idea that social networking is a powerful marketing tool. All of these social networking sites carry advertisements for something or other and they know that they can be a part of our on-line “community”. They are our friends and our cyber-neighbours. And the social networking site operator makes a fortune from charging them to display their messages.
But don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that social networking sites are in any way bad or to blame for our own vulnerabilities. We bear sole responsibility for those ourselves
I personally like Facebook and log into every day, sometimes two or three times. I’m also registered with MySpace and Bebo. They are extremely useful sites and most helpful when I want to keep in touch with people. They have also helped me re-connect with friends that I had lost contact with years ago.
All I am saying is beware. Don’t let your need to be part of a community drive you to use these sites as a shop window for your private life. Be careful what you say and where you say it but enjoy your social experience.