Facebook is a unique invention of digital technology worldwide. It is one of the most technologically advanced means of communication among people. People all over the world use this medium regardless of age, class, occupation, race, religion, caste, etc. Facebook is now a popular and attractive medium of social communication. There is a lot of discussion, criticism and debate over this social networking app, invented by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. A number of studies have already been conducted to reveal the impact of Facebook home and abroad. In just 17 years after its invention, no other application of software technology has been able to elicit such a response from the general public around the world.
Billions of people around the world use Facebook. In Bangladesh this number is about 46 million. On Facebook, members of the same family such as father, mother, siblings, wife, son, and daughter are getting a place in a person's friend list at the same time. Apart from family members, friends, colleagues, relatives, teachers, students, political activists, political leaders, religious leaders and people of different classes and professions across the globe are making friendships with the same person at the same time. So without a doubt this medium has a huge impact.
The level of social communication has increased rapidly due to Facebook. Many people across the globe use Facebook for their daily activities like recreation, education, politics, social work, cooking and online business. Facebook is also considered as a person’s personal broadcast medium. Anyone can share their personal emotions, feelings, photos and videos on Facebook. Anyone can now write on Facebook about contemporary politics, economics, literature, environment and any other issues. Anyone can express their views and opinion on Facebook.
Although Facebook is primarily used as a means of communication, public opinion building, social service, recreation, creative and business-economic work, its misuse is also growing at an alarming rate. Various studies have shown that Facebook has led to an increase in immoral activities. A large part of the young generation has become extremely addicted to Facebook, which is acting as an obstacle to the development of their intellect and thinking. Spouses are involving in illegal relationships through Facebook, which ultimately creates havoc in conjugal life and leads to divorce. Thus, divorce rate is increasing day by day.
On the other hand using Facebook, violence against women is also happening. Uploading nude pictures or videos of a girl or woman, making bad comments, allegations of cyber bullying against women and girls, etc. are very common. In addition, slanders like pornography are being spread by super-imposing pictures of someone in other people’s pictures. There are also rumours of women being gang-raped or trafficked using Facebook.
Through Facebook spreading propaganda on sensitive social, political, cultural and religious topics like racism, sectarianism and extremist religious doctrines, hatred, animosity and rumours have become a causal matter now a day. Ideologically separate groups are trying to humiliate each other through Facebook by publishing obscene, vulgar and defamatory comments and fabricated or false information. Facebook also has the effect of creating division in society, humiliating someone socially and causing emotional pain due to someone’s personal anger. Many people cheat others by taking pictures with famous people or celebrities and uploading them on Facebook. Many people were also threatened with death on Facebook.
According to experts, in a discriminatory society, Facebook is having a profound effect on a person's mental state by widening the gap between rich and poor. Wealthy people in our society show their luxurious lifestyle on Facebook such as travelling abroad, good food, good house, expensive car, children’s good schooling, leisure style, etc., affecting the mental condition of the backward people in the society. It is creating a kind of frustration among them.
Recently, a former Facebook employee has raised various allegations against Facebook, which have been heard in the US Senate Committee. A journalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize this year also said that Facebook was undermining democracy. Facebook authorities have also acknowledged that it is time to frame some rules for using the Internet to control the negative activities that take place through Facebook.
But the biggest thing is that unless there is awareness among the users, no matter how many rules are made, it will not be possible to prevent its misuse. The Facebook application has some features to prevent this. For example, members of Facebook can choose a certain person as a friend. Someone can also turn down someone’s request for friendship. Someone can delete or block a friend or group from the friend list. If anyone likes someone’s picture or video or speech, he or she can like and comment. Facebook users have this unfettered freedom. In addition, if a crime is committed against someone, he or she can take recourse to the law if he or she wishes.
Experts have pointed out many ways to prevent the misuse of Facebook. For example, to increase account security to prevent unethical activities, to formulate a decent policy on obscene images and information, to raise user awareness of policies and ethics, and to conduct awareness-raising programs to eliminate the negative aspects of Facebook. If those are implemented, its misuse can be reduced. There are good and bad sides to using Facebook. It basically depends on who is using it for what purpose. As a medium of social communication, Facebook has no bad side of its own. Bad or good is determined by the attitude of the user and the controlling authorities.
The writer is a Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), Dhaka