Facebook is a necessary means of communication for many, fuel to the fire of social media, addiction for a few but, in general, a renowned tool for staying connected in a society increasingly driven and defined by social media. Sounds harmless enough… And yet, in reality, Facebook has a less visible, more dangerous side. With hidden issues; from data being harvested and auctioned off to the highest bidder, to it being a platform for predators to groom unsuspecting teens – Facebook is not as innocent as it claims to be. Many people are unaware of this and it’s vitally important that people are made aware of what goes on behind the scenes regarding Facebook.
Due to its accepted use as a tool for quick and easy communication, on a day to day basis, by millions of people across the planet, it is easy to overlook the fact that it can so easily be used in a far less innocuous manner as seen in the case of Kayleigh Haywood, who at 15, was targeted through Facebook by 28 year old Luke Harlow. Over 2600 messages were exchanged over the platform before he convinced her to stay at his flat, where she was raped and killed by his friend Stephen Beadman, her body summarily disposed of in a hedgerow. Although an extreme example, this behavior is nowhere near as uncommon as we would all like to believe. In 2013, Peter Davies, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, stated that ‘half of all child sexual exploitation takes place on social networks’ and with Facebook being one of, if not the most popular social network in our current day and age, there is nowhere else to lay the blame.
Since 2015, the numbers of child grooming cases have quadrupled due to the fact that children have easy access to internet from an early age.
Nobody is safe from Facebook’s tight grasp on society. It portrays unrealistic images and lives, encouraging people to follow celebrities and public figures who present and promote unattainable lifestyles, leaving people feeling depressed and dissatisfied with their lives. This is not healthy for anyone and can leave individuals feeling isolated and with low self-esteem. On top of that, excessive time spent on Facebook often leads to internet addictions, which are unhealthy for all people of all ages but can have an especially detrimental effect on children as it prevents them from developing normally. Facebook themselves have also acknowledged the fact that “passively consuming information”, is not good for anyone as it can leave them “feeling worse” than they did before.
The threat to our privacy is also a serious concern. There is a lot more going on behind the pouting selfies and endless “funny” videos than Facebook are willing to own up to. This includes the data harvesting that Facebook is constantly running while you access it’s pages. Every like, every share, every interaction on Facebook is registered and stored in a growing bank of information about you. Your identity is stored away and sold to the highest bidder on the advertising market. Facebook can use keywords from posts and comments, and paired with other data, will feed personalized ads straight to your eyes. This is all because Facebook is free. Everyone takes this for granted but the reason why it is free, is because you are the product; you are the people who are subconsciously manipulated into feeding money into multimillion dollar companies.
In conclusion, Facebook is a lot darker behind its façade of smiling faces and endless entertainment than we might imagine. It gives users a negative social comparison which has been linked to many mental illnesses. It is also a spider web of hidden dangers for the children and teenagers who use it, as it is easy to create an alternate persona by which to snare unwary prey. People need to be made aware of the full extent of Facebook’s operation; the extensive personal data mining that affects all users and children must be educated more fully with regard to the potentially nightmarish consequences of using the internet and social media irresponsibly.