The good, the bad and the ugly of Facebook


by str6 from big sista's handbag

Facebook: the most popular social media for teens? For the past couple of years, that just about goes without saying! But in case you were wondering, here are some statistics we gathered from girls like you in a recent survey we conducted.

  • More than 95% of girls say that FB is part of their daily lives

  • The main reason girls get on FB is to keep up with what’s going on in friends’ lives, though some say they just check it 'coz they’re bored

  • Nearly everyone admits that FB is both time consuming and distracting!

  • How much is too much? Most girls think 3 hours a day might be too much, while others stretch that to 5 hours, some 7-10 hours per day, and a tiny percentage say you can never spend too much time on FB!

  • It would seem that PM, news, checking out photos, and posting photos are our favourite FB activities...(Oh, hang on, that’s pretty much everything you can do on FB, isn’t it?)

  • All girls who participated in the survey say they check FB multiple times a day


Our survey revealed lots of wisdom among teen girls about friendship and cyber bullying. One girl says: “Facebook bullying is where people can bully you on a public forum and have everyone that is your friend see it and take sides. It can often end up in nasty comments and the dissolution of friendships”. Another girl says, hang on, “some people take FB jokes way too seriously”. We think that this probably depends on the type of friendship you have, but that it may be safest to steer clear of making public jokes at other people’s expense. When bullying occurs, most teenage girls who participated in our survey said they’d prefered not to comment at all, while some said they’d write a private message or make a comment on the newsfeed to show that they don’t approve. All of these things may be appropriate in different circumstances.


But to get to get to the heart of some of the sticky issues that the survey raised about Facebook, Kate, first year university student, and Toni, Year 11 student on overseas exchange, had some great advice:


Question 1: Most girls seem to worry about how they will be judged by their peers when they put things on their Facebook wall. What do you think about this?


Kate: 71% of girls surveyed said that they are worried that they might look or say something uncool when posting on Facebook. A further 50% admitted that they feel somewhat self-conscious when they post photos and statuses. Of course, there are some things no one should say or post on Facebook and I think everybody realises this. But I think that if we're careful to only invite friends to our Facebook page, and make sure that our privacy settings are very secure, why shouldn't we be ourselves?

Question 2: What kind of image do people try to project about themselves on Facebook, and how does bullying impact their self-esteem?


Kate: I find that lots of girls feel the pressure to come across as fearless, acting very confidently. But the truth of the matter is that 97% of girls we surveyed admit to comparing themselves to others and believe that they fall short. So I don't think they really do feel as confident as they act. Unfortunately, many girls think they need to be as good as the next girl, who is probably also trying to be just like them, and it becomes a vicious cycle.


Then try introducing bullying into this fine balance. What a mess! Bullying has the power to knock down every last defence we’ve put into place and can destroy all the confidence we’ve acquired. Depending on how fragile a girl’s self-worth is to begin with, all it might take is one negative comment to make her feel small; as though she’s worth nothing! Most of us remember negative comments but skim over the positive ones, and it can take many positive comments to repair the damage of a single negative one.


Question 3: Is it important to be conscious about what you put out there on social media? 


Toni: It’s certainly important to be conscious about what you're putting on any social media site for lots of reasons. But the main ones are that you could unintentionally hurt someone, and you may write or post something about another person or yourself that you'll later regret. Even if you delete something online, it's never really gone permanently. Everything you post can be found on the internet somewhere, no matter how long ago it was deleted. If you're about to post something that you wouldn't want see in a newspaper, or on TV, then it’s simple: don't put it online.


Question 4: Can you bully someone without really intending to? and what do you do if you realise you've hurt someone's feelings?


Toni: Facebook bullying is when you intentionally post, comment or share something that hurts, offends or threatens someone else. It includes things like sending unwanted messages that tease or make fun of people, putting embarrassing photos of people on the web, and creating fake profiles that are mean or hurtful.



However, to be a good friend you should also be very careful about what you do and say online because, even if you're joking or don't mean what you're saying, you could hurt someone’s feelings. It’s never a good idea to demean someone else in public and, if you realise that you've hurt someone's feelings, you should immediately apologise to them and make sure they understand that you weren't intending to hurt them. Secondly, you need to block and remove the post, hoping that no one will come across it in the future; however, as I mentioned previously, no post is ever gone completely so be very careful what you say!


Question 5: What can you do if you are being bullied?


Kate: The main thing to remember if someone is bullying you is to never retaliate, no matter how tempting. Tell the bully to stop, stay calm, and try to act unimpressed by the whole thing. It’s also best to remove yourself from the conversation because, without ‘encouragement’, the bully will probably stop. If they don’t stop, however, this would be a good time to find an adult you trust and get them involved. No one deserves to be bullied, and it’s certainly not just part of growing up, as some people might try to tell you! You do not need to put up with this.


When repeated and intentional bullying includes harassment and threats to a person’s physical or psychological safety or reputation, there are definite legal implications for those dishing out the bullying. One website called Ask The Judge says, “If you’re under 18 and charged with a cyberbullying offense, you could be taken to juvenile detention. The court decides whether to release you pending trial and under what terms you’ll be released.” As an alternative to this, if found guilty, you could end up having to do community service or go to counseling.


So, Facebook… who needs it? We do! But bullying? No one does.


str8 from big sista’s handbag: a project that encourages young women to write about current issues and topics of interest to them. It relies on research and discussion of the topic and the innate wisdom teenagers gather from their own life experiences. In this article, Kate Mitchell and Toni Robb have some great advice for their younger ‘sistas’. Debbie Cosier mentors and co-writes with them. 

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