It is hard to imagine a world without Facebook. It has become essential in managing our lives. We use it to stay connected to friends, family, and colleagues, to make plans and send invites, and to keep up with current events.
With over 901 million active users every month, Facebook is a dominant force. There are people who check their Facebook pages when they wake up in the morning and before they go to sleep at night. Because of this, Facebook has the influence to affect individuals and society as a whole. Through an interview and research about the psychology of Facebook, I examined the positive and negative effects of Facebook, particularly how it can hurt or help a person’s career and if it’s addictive.
Many scholars and professionals have committed themselves to researching Facebook, including Robert Wilson, a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. He co-authored A Review of Facebook Research in the Social Sciences, a literature review of over 400 empirical studies. Wilson wanted to prove why and how people use Facebook.
What exactly is drawing people to social networking sites like Facebook? Wilson believes that it is “deep psychological desire, one of our basic needs, to connect with people.” People need to feel love, compassion and understanding. They want to feel like they are important and Facebook can do just that. No where else could you get 500 or even 50 friends to sympathize with a break up or job loss, or share the joy in a promotion, engagement, or pregnancy. Facebook fulfills this basic human need instantly.
“If you are actively engaged with people (on Facebook) there is evidence that it can strengthen you social ties and decrease loneliness,” Wilson said. Facebook can improve a person’s self worth through its social connections, but it can also have an adverse effect. Wilson affirmed that if a person is passively viewing Facebook, meaning they aren’t interacting on the site, this might cause depression or lower self-esteem. By looking at other users’ seemingly exciting lives through comments and pictures, a person could become jealous or discontent with their own lives.
Not only can Facebook affect people psychologically and socially, but it can also have an effect on their professional lives. People utilize Facebook to advance their careers and their businesses by reaching a wider audience, and as a platform to communicate with employees and customers. But it can’t all be positive, right? Wilson concludes that because people on Facebook usually portray themselves accurately, future employers use it as an investigative tool. So think twice before you post a picture of yourself at a party or doing something illegal.
There are legal implications for this access to information as well. There are questions an employer can’t ask in an interview, such as a person’s age, relationship status, or whether they have kids, but those answers are readily available on a person’s Facebook page and could affect whether that individual is hired.
Finally, Facebook has addictive qualities. We’ve all heard of drug, alcohol, and gambling addiction, but what about Facebook addiction? Addiction can affect our work, friendships and marriages. Studies published in Psychological Reports showed that people have lost interest in outside activities and even their jobs because they can’t escape the urge to check Facebook. But how can we abstain from social media – it has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. And for many people, using social media is an unavoidable, and even sometimes required aspect of life.
Facebook plays an essential role in people’s personal and professional lives. Professionally, it can help mold a person’s career through professional connections. Personally, it enables easier communication between friends and family on a national and global scale.
On the other hand, we have also seen it can lower ones self-esteem when it is passively used, and if used excessively, it can be addictive. This is why it is critical to understand the positive and negative effects Facebook has on a person and the cultural changes it is causing.
Facebook has exploded all over the globe and its population is only getting bigger. So, how is Facebook going to effect differing societies in 20 years? Are we going to spend holidays – not sitting around grandma’s table – but in front of our computers? Are we going to have jobs, and college classes only available online? Are we going to believe that human contact is over-rated? How do you think Facebook has changed your life, and your community?