With the recent news that Facebook has surpassed 500 million readers, or 1 out of every 13 people on the planet, it is worth considering its implications. Facebook remains the most popular social networking site across a host of countries, beating out other sites such as Twitter, MySpace, and Flickr (for a comparison, see here), and continues to grow rapidly. Not only is its user base growing, but users in the US average over 6 hours per month on the site in 2010, up over an hour from just one year ago.
But despite the news that Facebook is a rapidly growing phenomenon, not all the news has been rosy. Facebook and MySpace both scored relatively low in terms of customer satisfaction, behind sites like Wikipedia and YouTube, as well as all news sources – of which Foxnews.com had the highest rating. Privacy woes have plagued Facebook, as public backlash to their new privacy settings forced them to change their policies. Concerns about children on Facebook being exposed to paedophiles also abound (although in this story, a girl used Facebook to alert authorities to sexual assault).
But perhaps scarier than the rest of these stories are concerns about how the new digital world in which we live – and that Facebok is a large part of – affects our ability to construct our own image. This article sums up these fears very well, reminding us of the host of concerns that follow people posting so much information about themselves online: the impact on careers, the inability of living separate lives depending on context, and the potential for past mistakes to haunt us forever, as they remain in the public domain. The article also provided some interesting potential solutions: from image doctors, to having a reputation score (much like your credit score), putting an expiration date on old information, or that society will learn to accept, forgive, and forget others’ past mistakes.
It’s a scary notion, and one that all of us need to consider as we post our pictures, update our status, and maintain our blogs. What trail are we leaving for others to follow years later…and how will our posts of today influence our lives tomorrow?