Should social networking sites be banned? Despite their popularity, some people seem to think so.
Why Should Social Networking Sites be Banned?
When asked this question, many people cite identity theft, social isolation, pornography and infidelity. In order to determine if these are valid points, each of these issues must be considered.
Why Parents Think Social Networking Sites Should be Banned
Many parents dislike social networking.They believe that sites such as MySpace and Facebook attract child predators. Others believe that cyber-bullying takes place on these sites. Still others feel that social networks distract a child from his or her school work. Will a child not be distracted in the playground? Are there no predators on the streets? These do not seem to be good reasons to ban social networking for everyone. It's best to talk with your child about the dangers of online social networking.
Neal Stephenson: A Cyberpunk Writer Predicts the Social Network
The book Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, was published in 1992. It describes a futuristic society where most social interaction takes place on something known as the Metaverse. They make use of avatars, which are essentially the equivalent of today's Internet "user names." The avatars interact with each other in a space that is a three-dimensional representation of the real world.
Many people see Snow Crash as a book that accurately predicted the modern Internet or social network. While some see this as a good thing, others do not. In Snow Crash, the characters only had minimal face to face interaction. Most of their communication occurred in the Metaverse.
Social Networking and Social Isolation
In this highly engrossing article about the pros and cons of social networking, the author quotes a 19th Century sociologist by the name of Emile Durkheim. Durkheim believed that lack of integration with society was one of the major causes of suicide. The authors of this article on CNN would agree with Mr. Durkheim. It seems that spending too much time on the Internet can create a dangerous sense of isolation. Some psychologists believe that the damage goes beyond mere isolation. Apparently, some people become very addicted to online gambling, and still others to Internet pornography. However, might that same person become addicted to gambling or pornography in the so called "real world" anyway?
Is a Cyber-Friend a Real Friend?
Perhaps it's the sense of isolation that causes people to believe that social networking sites should be banned. On the other hand, people may be objecting to the false sense of being connected, which characterizes memberships to some social network sites. After all, do you really have friends if they are only in cyberspace? On the other hand, who is to judge whether or not a cyber-friend is a "real friend." Regardless, the social isolation theory is a strong one.
Is the Person Behind the Screen Really a Dog?
"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." By now, that phrase is quite dated. However, it was one the most common reasons why some people started believing that social networking sites should be banned. True, it's quite easy to impersonate someone else on the web. Nonetheless, one need not be online in order to have an identity stolen, and there have been plenty of incidents involving people giving false or exaggerated identities in meetings at bars and clubs.
So What's the Verdict?
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury described a society where books are burned. Should social networking sites be banned, it would be the equivalent of burning books. Social networks may have their problems, but none are so bad that they warrant banning.