On September 7, 2012, Amanda Todd posted a 9-minute YouTube video entitled “My Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide and Self Harm,” which showed her using flash cards to reveal her experiences of being bullied. During the video, Amanda writes that when she was in seventh grade, she once used video chat to meet new people over the Internet and soon began receiving compliments on her looks. A stranger convinced Amanda to flash her breasts on camera. The stranger later blackmailed her with threats to expose the topless photo to her friends unless she gave a “show”.
She refused. She would never make that mistake again. Amanda Todd wrote that during the next Christmas break, police informed her at four am that the photo was circulating the Internet. Amanda wrote that she experienced anxiety, depression, and panic disorder because of this. Her family moved to a new home, where she later stated that she began using drugs and alcohol.
A year later, the stranger had reappeared, creating a Facebook profile which used the topless photograph as the profile image, and contacting classmates at her new school.
Once again she was being bullied, eventually causing her to change schools for the second time. With more bullying and an actual attack, she attempted suicide by drinking bleach, but was rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped. After returning home, Amanda discovered abusive messages about her failed suicide attempt posted to Facebook.
Once again, her family moved to another city to start fresh, but Todd was unable to escape Facebook and her first unfortunate error. Six months later further messages and abuse were still being posted to social networking sites. She started to get worse, and began cutting herself. Despite taking anti-depressants and receiving counseling, she overdosed and spent two days in the hospital. She was teased by other students at her school for her low grades, and the time she spent in the hospital to treat her severe depression. On October 10, 2012 at about six PM, Amanda Todd hung herself at home. So is Facebook a friend or a foe?
Teens often don’t realize that bullying over the computer is the same as bullying in person. The harmless “joke” can be taken much, much worse because of the huge audience and the unclear tone of Facebook posts. Although Facebook can be a good source for meeting friends, spreading information, and changing peoples opinions, it can also be very harmful. Facebook can encourage cyber-bullying, make people become anti-social, and distract people from finishing other tasks.
On the positive side, Facebook is another way for people to connect with new friends, old friends, and family. According to the pro and cons website on social networking, seventy percent of adult social networking users visit the site to connect with friends and family. Fifty-two percent of teens say that using social media has helped improve their relationships with friends and eighty-eight percent believe that social media have helped them stay connected with friends they can not see regularly. Despite the fact that Facebook and social media sites have many positive sides, it has its bad sides as well.
Facebook users are starting to get more and more addicted each day. According to an article from WebMD, in a 2009 survey of 1,030 parents, Rosen and colleagues found out that children and teens had spent more time engaged in media (online and offline) had more anxiety, more stomachaches, and more sick days from school. In teens, the time spent playing video games also led to poorer health. In another ongoing survey of teens and adults, Rosen found that spending more time than average on Facebook was associated with signs of narcissism, anxiety, and bipolar disorder on a standard psychological test. In another 2011 study, 279 middle school, high school, and university students lost focus for an average of three minutes for every fifteen minutes spent studying or doing another task. Checking Facebook just once during the fifteen minute period was associated with lower grades. Not only does Facebook cause lower grades, it also can ruin someones self-esteem.
Facebook users feel as if they need to know if something important is happening, and by doing their work, they feel like they might miss out on something big. The New York Times released an article in April of 2011 that talked about FOMO, which stands for “the fear of missing out.” This mostly occurs when seeing Facebook statuses and photos posted by friends, questioning the event, wondering “Why wasn’t I there?” or “How come I didn’t know this was happening?” Sometimes it’s not just a specific event that throws us off, but just scrolling through a friends profile and noticing how much “better” his or her life appears. Facebook adds negative social comparisons and FOMO, which puts a sense of regret and a heavy weight on self-esteem.
As social networking sites become more and more popular, its users have expanded from teens to young adults, to even people over fifty. As you can see with Amanda Todd’s story, many people use social networking sites for the wrong reasons. People can be whoever they want to be, but some do use it for the right reasons, as for example connecting with family they haven’t seen in a while, or catching up with long-distance friends. Is Facebook a place where people can connect and have conversations about things that truly matter to them? Is it a place where you can express yourself without fear of judgement? Or is it a place for status updates that aren’t true, photoshopped profile pictures, and cyber-bullying disguised as humor? So what do you think? Is Facebook a friend or a foe?