A couple of months ago, CB Insights conducted a survey. The question was “In ten years, which company will we say was a net negative for society?”. The choices were Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.  It’s a challenging question, and one especially facing Facebook.  Is Facebook a Negative impact for socieity?

I easily predicted the top two, Facebook and Amazon. The latter has completely transformed the retail industry. While extraordinarily convenient, no one can deny the negative impact it has had on brick-and-mortar retail establishments. The truth is, it has even had a negative impact on other online retailers who simply cannot compete with them.
Amazon is doing to retail what Walmart did to “mom & pop” retail in the 1980s and 90s. The local hardware store and five ‘n dime are almost extinct.

But what I didn’t predict in the survey was how extreme the results would be. Facebook was first, as I expected. But it was first by a dramatic margin. It received 59% of the votes, with Amazon coming in at a distant second with 11%. (It should be noted that 22% of respondents felt that all would have a net positive impact on society).

Note that this survey was conducted in January. Two months later, the bad news continues to roll in on Facebook. But sadly, the data harvesting scandal of this past week pales in comparison to the other challenges Facebook is presenting us with.

Before I share my list of my top five concerns. I will disclose that I am a long-time user of Facebook. I check it out on a regular basis, and it’s the primary way that I keep up with some people.

  1. It has turned normal people into narcissists

    It’s sad but true. I’ve seen this in some of my friends. I believe this surfaces most in people who are craving attention. We see them post pictures of food, checking in at the grocery store, and sharing every minute detail of their personal life. Eventually, they delude themselves with the idea that others actually do care about this. Leading to an unhealthy level of narcissism.

  2.  It’s essentially putting a drug in the hands of children (and adults)

    Simon Sinek shares the concern in his well-documented interview on millennials. He describes the effects of dopamine on the brain. Dopamine is produced whenever we get those great feelings, like when someone “likes” our post. This addictive drug is the same one produced when we smoke, drink or gamble.  It’s like giving teenagers the keys to the liquor cabinet and saying “have fun”.

  3. It is eliminating the “need” for normal social interactions with those we are distantly connected

    Remember the good ole’ days? When you would get together for that high school reunion every five years or so. Or when you would go visit the church you grew up in? Or attend that annual festival in your hometown. Statistics are showing a dramatic drop in these types of events. I believe Social Media is one of the reasons. If you already know what is happening in people’s lives (based on what they say on FB), then what’s the need of getting stressed out about how you look, what you wear, who you are going to take, and all of the other stresses of reunions and similar functions.

  4. People are not representing themselves accurately, leading to problems of low self-esteem

    Granted, we all have that friend that shares their deepest, darkest problems on Facebook. But that’s not the norm. Most of us just keep things on the surface and share the highlights of our lives. That leads to the false impression that everything in our lives is exciting and perfect. And, consequently, theirs is not. This leads to low self-esteem, depression and everything else associated with that.

  5. We are willingly telling them (almost) everything about ourselves, and that will surely be used to manipulate us at some time.

    And, finally, to the latest concerns that have come up about Facebook. We are sharing an unbelievable amount of information about ourselves. It hasn’t been proven, but it’s very possible that Facebook and Google (and other applications) may actually be listening to our conversations unbeknownst to us. What is the purpose of all of this? No doubt, this data has great value to marketers, politicians, potential employers, government and much more. The downside of this level of exposure into our private lives is certainly something to be concerned about.

    So, what do you do?

    Social media is here. There’s nothing we can do to stop this train. And, unfortunately, the next generation of social media tools are probably going to be even more dangerous and a greater cause for concern. My advice is to be careful about what you post. Be honest, but reserved. And limit your time. Remember, real living takes place away from the keyboard.