Facebook’s 10th Birthday: Hip Hip Hooray?

Ayla Safran, ‘15

At the beginning of February, Facebook celebrated its 10th “birthday.” The website introduced new features, such as “Look Back” videos, where any user can have a video of his or her past Facebook activity created. Ten years ago, Mark Zuckerberg created this social media website, which currently has 1.2 billion users, as a form of communication within the Harvard University community. In a company statement, Zuckerberg explained, “It’s been amazing to see how people have used Facebook to build a real community and help each other in so many ways.” It is indisputable that Facebook has had a large effect on the lives of adults and teenagers since its creation 10 years ago. Those in high school now have never known a social life not dominated by Facebook.

However, not all BHSEC students seem to agree with Zuckerberg that growing up with access to Facebook has helped with community building. Jenna Martin, ’15, said, “Facebook is geared toward a younger generation, who, growing up in this electronic-oriented world, have lost personal communication.” Many students agree that, while they are active Facebook users, the website ends up being more of a negative experience for them than a positive one. Sera Cetinkaya, ’17, explained, “I recently deleted my Facebook because it was more negative than positive. Facebook is the number one procrastinator… there’s also something called the Facebook effect, where people take photos when they’re happy, so when you look at those photos, it makes you depressed. Generally, Facebook causes social anxiety… you want notifications because they make you feel important.”

Lots of students expressed similar concerns. Julie Seager, ’17, said, “It’s become an instinct to go on Facebook… I accidentally click on it and then I can’t go off. It makes me hyperaware of what all my friends are doing all the time, and it takes me out of the moment.”

Most students have conflicting feelings about this idea of virtual social interactions. Ramon Reyes, ’17, said that, in his opinion, “social interactions can be enhanced or worsened by having Facebook.” Iolanthe Brooks, ’15, explained, “Since, on your birthday, for example, people that you’re not actually close with will communicate with you, in some sense, it makes you feel like you have a larger community of friends than you have in real life, which is sort of comforting. But you’re also deluding yourself in a way.”

Of course, using Facebook also has an effect on schoolwork. Many students expressed that using Facebook is their favorite way to procrastinate. Emma Evans, ’15, said that she spends lot of time on Facebook when she should be doing homework, but she added, “It’s productive because it’s a form of being social – that’s how I justify it.” Isaiah Back-Gaal, ’15, explained, “Often its like a chain reaction – once I go to Facebook, I check it for much longer than I need to. Sometimes it’s enjoyable, and sometimes I just get nothing out of it.” Nevertheless, Facebook does provide an important method of communication about schoolwork. Lily Gordon, ’17, said, “it’s useful for help with homework because you can access people really quickly.”

The majority of BHSEC students agree that Facebook has strongly influenced their lives. Jenna said of her mom, who grew up without Facebook, “she likes to talk to people face to face. This personal connection is something that she’s carried on. People who’ve grown up without electronic communication are more opposed to using it for personal conversations.” Other students agree that their parents’ social experiences in high school were very different from their own experiences now. Julie expressed a sense of nostalgia for the experiences that her mom had in her childhood: “She would go to her friends’ houses and just ask if they were free… plans would happen spontaneously.”

Although BHSEC students have many negative things to say about the effect of Facebook on their lives, most also acknowledge that the website does have its merits. One student said that she finds it very useful for keeping in touch with family and friends who live in other places. Another said that he uses it to connect with people whom he no longer sees on a daily basis. Whether Facebook has enhanced the lives of high school students or not, there is no question that it has had a significant influence on their social and academic lives.

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