The hot button issue right now is certainly the discussion of privacy on Facebook, the most popular social network. With over 400 million users, Facebook owns personal data on a group that equals the size of the third largest country in the world. Facebook has become a regular part of many of our lives. I use Facebook and many other social networks on a daily basis as this is often my primary connection to many business partners. My very large family that is spread all over the United States keeps up with each other by posting photos of family events, holidays, graduations, engagements, weddings, you name it, on a regular basis. We don’t get to see each other much throughout the year, and this has become a way for us to not feel so distant. And there are countless other stories just like this where Facebook has become a fantastic tool at bringing us closer together. Now it seems as though it’s dividing us on a very important issue: privacy.
Privacy is by far one of the most important privileges we own the individual right to. Our entire governmental system is founded on the basis of individual rights of human beings, and one that we cling to is the right to privacy. We reserve the right to protect ourselves and our families from harmful situations by dishing out personal information. But how far are we willing to go when we get something back – like a great networking tool – by giving up a little of that privacy? Furthermore, are we really giving up a lot of personal information to use these sites? An email address and birth date is requested by Facebook to sign up, but do you really have to divulge any other personal info? It’s certainly not required.
The divide on this debate seems to fall along the age line. A new report by YouGov BrandIndexex shows consumer perception of Facebook over the last 4 months broken down into two age groups: Adults 18-34 and Adults 35+. The question was posed, “If you’ve heard anything about the brand [Facebook] in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?” The accompanying graph shows a distinct positive trend for the 18-34 group and distinct negative for the 35+ group. I recently had a discussion with a group of people of varying genders and ages on this exact topic. I myself as a member of the 18-34 group view Facebook very positively. I’ve had a Facebook profile since I was a freshman in college, and many of my original friends were from high school. I’ve been keeping up with them for years now. I couldn’t survive college group work without Facebook. It quickly became a way of life. However, another person in the group voiced how surreal it is when you get on Facebook for the first time 20 years removed from high school, and all of a sudden you start getting friend requests from people you don’t even remember. Instantly you feel a bit of your privacy has been sacrificed. Furthermore, the media stresses the downfalls of social media on the lives of very young people by constantly covering stories on sexting, cyberbullying, and students not thinking of the consequences before posting something online.
I’m curious to know what you think. Do you think age has a lot to do with the privacy issues with Facebook? Do you feel as though your privacy is at stake by using social networking sites? Let me know in the comments section below.