Dusting Off The Archives

29 Sep

After a discussion with my colleague Dave Fleet regarding journalism, online outlets and social media, I decided to go back and have a look at my old Online Reporting haunt from 4th year jskool. Sadly, it has not been updated since last school term (really hoping they keep it alive though). But I did manage to dig up a few old posts from 2007 (!!!) and thought I’d re-post them here. While somewhat dated by the events included in them, I find it very interesting that 2 years later, we’re all still having the same debates. Here’s one from February 14, 2007:

Social Networking or Anti-Social?

By Kerri Birtch | Published 02/14/2007

It seems like the only way to be ‘in-the-know.’ It’s how you say “Happy Birthday” to your friends; heck it’s how you know it’s your friends’ birthday. It’s how you found out about the party you went to this weekend. It’s how you met your significant other. It’s how you found out they cheated on you. It’s what made you stalk them to begin with, just because you could.

Yes, that’s right, it’s Facebook, MySpace… [insert social networking site of choice here].

But for all it’s worth, these so-called social networking sites actually do the opposite and can be a cause for concern when open forums become breeding grounds for bullying, stalking and quite frankly, anti-social behaviour.

These sites create a lack of connection among actual people. They allow you to sit at your computer and ‘talk’ to multiple people at once and in so doing, promotes the loss of real face-to-face communication. Yes, most users post profile pictures for others to see, but these sites they make it far too easy to disconnect from human interaction.

But beyond the lack of real connections, there are also real concerns.

Recently at a Toronto area Catholic Secondary School, 19 students were suspended between three to eight days for ‘cyber-bullying’ their principal on Facebook. According to reports, the students created a group to discuss amongst themselves, their discontent with their principals’ enforcement of school policies.

Reports state that the students were not accessing the site from school computers and were not on it during school hours. So where should the line be drawn? Had the students decided to sit in the cafeteria and have the same discussion, would they still be suspended?

This is just one of the many reasons people like Marie Costa, a fourth year Radio and Television Arts student, don’t have a social networking account. “I think it’s a total infringement on people’s privacy. I wouldn’t want everyone knowing what I’m doing all the time,” says Costa. And while there are a wide variety of privacy controls at the user’s disposal, few actually choose to use them. Costa echoes the sentiment about lost connections: “A friend actually told me I missed her party because I’m not on Facebook. How ridiculous is that?”

Ridiculous indeed. But it gets worse. There are actually anti-Facebook groups on the site. In fact, the search result number for “Anti-Facebook” came back at 239 groups. Although upon closer inspection, not all were in fact anti-Facebook, it still brings up a rather ironic point: If you are anti-Facebook, why are you using it to create groups?

Many of us would love to boycott Facebook: It’s often a source of procrastination. It’s a place where our demons come back to bite us in the butt through pictures we didn’t know were taken. And it really isn’t doing much to enhance our true social selves. But let’s be honest, it’s the train wreck we can’t help but look at as we pass by.

So, yes, I will be keeping my account, regretfully.

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