Saturday, March 7, 2009

What the Experts Say

Steve Chazin, former Apple marketing director and current chief marketing officer at, has experienced the feeling of isolation one gets after having become so dependent on Internet use, recalling, “I remember one day a few years ago when our office phones and Internet stopped working. No e-mail, no voicemail, no Facebook, no Skype, and no Twitter, [all examples of social networking sites]. People came out of their offices and talked. I enjoyed that day."

Rob Bedi, a registered psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Victoria, says that removing oneself from social networking sites after having experienced addiction-like urges to constantly be using the sites and receive notifications from them cannot be quit cold turkey. He explains, “while a cocaine addict can put down his drug and an alcoholic his drink, you can’t preach abstinence to a student society that functions on Internet usage.”

Paul Levinson, Professor and Chair of Media Studies at Fordham University, says, “What I think something like the Facebook does is that it gives everyone a little dossier, and it does profoundly change the rules of engagement when they do meet. It obsolesces small talk."

N’Gai Croal, a Newsweek technology columnist, writes that, once one becomes a user, it is very difficult to disengage oneself from sites like Facebook and Myspace, because “[they are] an insidious blend of peer pressure and crowd psychology – watching all your ‘friends’ on the site post every little detail of their lives, you can’t help but feel compelled to join in."

Ernest Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that the fact that MySpace had to ban and remove so many convicted sex offenders from the site in recent months “clearly reinforces the fact that there are a significant number of people who seek access to kids online."

Isaac Gilman of Pacific University allows that, while there is nothing inherently immoral about using social networking sites, “publicly sharing unprofessional content…or excessive personal information may be compromising for professionals [currently and in the future]."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Argument Development

Argument 2

Social networking sites are harmful to young people because they produce such an immense loss of privacy. The main premise of these sites is to create a public profile in which anyone, from close friends to complete strangers, can view your interests, hobbies, hometown, etc. The ability of just about anyone to create such an open and public persona has legitimized scrutinizing mere acquaintances, classmates, friends, teachers, and coworkers by looking at their profiles. Many argue that privacy tools exist to heighten Internet security, yet many users either are not aware of their privacy options or simply do not know how to use them properly, if at all.

I will develop this argument by delving into the different features of the sites that jeopardize users' privacy. For example, the "News Feed" is a feature of Facebook that allows users to observe any changes their friends make to their profiles, comments they post on each others' sites, or new photographs of themselves and events they attend that they have uploaded. Such features are a threat to the privacy of any user of social networking sites.

Argument 3

The fact that social networking sites contribute to today’s rapidly growing Internet addiction and procrastination problem is another reason that the sites are damaging to today’s teenagers. Speaking from personal experience, Facebook has been the root of much of my daily procrastination, whether I am attempting to complete homework assignments or other equally otherwise-productive tasks. Indeed, the easiest way to be social and lazy at the same time is to spend hours on end on these social networking sites. In short, they provide another medium for wasting time that could otherwise be used productively.

Some might say that procrastination is something that can be cured with determination, yet the habitual use of these sites and the ease with which one can interact and communicate with their friends and family makes it very difficult to completely change one's routine. The sites create an almost obsessive attitude toward online communication and replace productive activity with overuse of the sites.

Argument 4

It would be difficult in today’s world to be unaware of the amount of sex offenders and “cyberstalkers” running rampant on social networking sites, attempting to abuse the services they provide in order to connect with and harm young people. To develop this subtopic, I will research statistics of the sexual predator/offender presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace and look for past and recent cases.

It is difficult to fathom any argument against this case, but I believe that the data I will find in the course of my research will be substantial enough to refute claims that the existence of sex offenders on social networking sites is not a pressing issue.

Argument 5

Perhaps one of the most long-lasting effects of social networking sites that makes them so harmful to today’s teenagers is the consequences they hold for the future in terms of a career. Facebook, MySpace, and other sites affect the labor market, with recruiters now adding young applicants’ profiles to their evaluations of the potential employees and observing the public, inappropriate content that is easily accessed on their pages.

Those against this argument offer that public profiles can easily be deleted. However, quite the contrary is true. It has become increasingly difficult to completely delete one's information from the Internet, with photographs, posts, and personal information permanently kept on the websites without any manner of deletion available. This is detrimental to both prospective employees and those concerned about their privacy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

First Argument

Social networking sites on the internet are damaging to today's teenagers because they are a venue for social humiliation and bullying. Adolescence is an age of precarious emotions and social standards, and what with social networking technology now enabling just about anyone to explicitly post humiliating or malicious information about someone else with a simple click of the mouse, the potential for degradation and "cyberbullying" is practically infinite. On many of these sites, an entire section of the user's profile is dedicated to the user's friends. A list, usually including pictures, presents the names of the user's friends. The user has the option to accept "friend requests," in which one user requests to be considered another user's friends. Once accepted, their name and picture becomes part of the other user's friend list. Normally, becoming a part of another user's list enables the other user to see information and pictures on the other user's profile that they would not have been able to see beforehand. However, a user also has the option to reject such friend requests, and with these sites completely transforming the traditional meaning of "friend" from a person one regards with affection and trust to simply someone on whose link they have clicked, the social implications of a friend request rejection are endless. Issues like self-esteem come to the fore and are intensified by features like the friend request on these sites. Additionally, posting and commenting, which form the foundation of social networking sites, lend themselves to endless possibilities for social bashing and gossip.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Taking Sides

After having completed a good deal of research on my topic, I have come to find a plethora of information in support of both sides of the issue: whether social networking sites, such as Facebook and Myspace, are beneficial or harmful to today's teenagers.

The pro side of the issue, which advocates teenage use of the sites, believes these online communities to be places where young people can not only interact with one another but also develop important social and technical skills online. Managing elaborate friendship networks and organizing and maintaining a public profile contributes to the growth of these skills. An unexpected argument from this side is that social networking sites boost self-esteem. Further research into this argument revealed that many of these sites' supporters believe that by being able to express oneself, either through pictures, graphics, or posting of personal information (such as background, interests, hobbies, preferences, etc.), teenagers are able to feel more comfortable with themselves and are able to find and connect with others that share the same interests and goals. The pro side mainly focuses on the fact that social networking sites connect people, creating a level of interconnectivity that most never deemed possible before the creation of the sites. Maintaining and strengthening relationships is easier than ever before, because teenagers are able to keep in touch and seek social contact with friends, relatives, and acquaintances on the Internet. This side does not believe that the Internet could ever replace face-to-face communication, as the con side would like to argue, but rather that it would only strengthen it, as social networking sites increase social investment in and commitment to our everyday relationships.

The con side of the issue, which deems teenage use of the sites harmful, has several valid arguments. For one thing, opponents of the sites consider them an additional forum for existing negative peer relationships. Malicious gossip and “cyberbulling” have found a niche in these sites, and teenage responses to such abuse have often been mentally and emotionally unfavorable and even suicidal. It would be difficult in today’s world to be unaware of the amount of sex offenders running rampant on these sites, attempting to abuse the services they provide in order to connect with and harm young people. Most importantly, the con side argues, these sites have made it increasingly difficult to become disconnected from others. Isolation has become a thing of the past, and teenagers have become too dependent on the connective power of the Internet to interact with each other. The world of person-to-person contact among teenagers has shrunk rapidly, and social skills have suffered as a result.

The side that I will be arguing is that social networking sites are harmful to teenagers. It will be an interesting and challenging undertaking for me to argue this side of the issue, because I am a frequent user of one of these sites. I have always believed that sites like Facebook and Myspace are beneficial in the sense that they connect us all in a convenient and useful manner, yet the risks of using these sites and the harm they have the potential to cause have led me to truly believe that they create more damage to today’s teenagers than they do benefits.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


An issue that I have decided to explore is the concept of free-access social networking Internet sites, such as Myspace and Facebook, as applied to teenagers. These websites are extremely relevant to young people in today’s world, who use them to socially interact with relatives, coworkers, friends, friends of friends, and even complete strangers. What appeals to me the most about this subject is the fact that so much of young peoples’ lives has become engrossed in and dependent on the existence of these websites. They can be used to update social calendars, to notify friends and family about recent updates in our lives, to maintain relationships with others that we have not seen in a while, and to make new connections based on shared interests and pursuits. I use Facebook extensively myself as a way to interact with friends and family, so I find the controversy surrounding this subject particularly interesting. On one side, many supporters of such sites as Facebook consider them a catalyst for conveniently binding people with similar interests and goals together into a single community. Others condemn them as a source of exploitation and the violation of privacy. The question I will strive to answer in my research of this topic is whether these social networking sites are beneficial or harmful to teenagers today, and in what ways.