The Faults of Facebook

Only a few short years ago, Facebook reigned supreme, providing the masses with not only an outlet to communicate, but also a means of checking what Suzy wore to the prom in 2008…in case anyone forgot. While it may be that Facebook, as a domain for communication and information sharing, is still thriving, the site has taken on a number of more negative “statuses” in recent years.

Perhaps the harshest of these new reputations is that Facebook is becoming uncool. That’s right, Facebook—the multi billion dollar social media giant with 802 million daily active users—is uncool. Although the losses haven’t seemed to affect Facebook in the slightest, a study conducted by researchers John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler from Princeton University controversially noted that Facebook is on a downward trend of popularity. Additionally, analyst reports, as well as the Facebook CFO himself, have stated that more than 11 million young former-Facebook users have left the site since 2011.

Many Facebook users, in the midst of finals week or looking to get a better handle on their time management, will self impose a Facebook cleanse, temporarily deactivating their accounts for a period of time until they miss that familiar shade of blue. Aside from this practice, though, what is causing young users to deem Facebook unimportant and leave the site has recently been called into question.

One theory for this decline is that Facebook is straying away from its origins as a tool for communication and is becoming a host for unwanted parasites such as spam advertisements, or worse, targeted advertisements. Such advertisements record our online activity—what we like on Facebook and even which websites we view off of Facebook—and then use that information to provide us with advertisements that may suit our preferences. So, for example, if you search for a hotel in New York City, you may see ads for hotels in New York City on your Facebook page. While this may be beneficial for some, others see it as an eerie invasion of privacy and a possible deterrent from using the site, which already provides more than its fair share of spam by way of that friend who is constantly posting updates about what he ate for breakfast.

Another possibility as to why teens are leaving the site is that Facebook makes us sad, as brought to light by a study conducted at the University of Michigan. The reasoning behind feeling the Facebook blues is that it incites social comparison—if you weren’t present at the event that everyone is posting about, unhappiness may set in when you click through the posts and pictures. Since the Internet first rose to popularity, researchers have backed the theory that our increased online presence and decreased personal interactions have heightened our susceptibility to both depression and loneliness.

While what may be triggering teens to leave Facebook is debatable, what is certain is that Facebook usage isn’t always beneficial. What comes with the perks of using the site is a responsibility to be aware of Facebook’s faults. Even though seeing Suzy’s prom dress from 2008 may bring back fond memories of high school, too much Facebook-ing could come at a price.

— Lauren Witte, A14

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Changing the Faces of Media

Quick—name the director of your favorite film. The columnist of the newspaper article you just read. The analyst on the news program you watch.

While many of us are aware of the handful of big name women in media, when reality sets in it becomes clear that these answers were most likely men. The existence of a gender gap in all areas of the media, from newspaper to film to television, is not a new realization. What is surprising, however, is that only slight improvements in the amount of women in the industry have been made in the last decade, according to the newest report from the Women’s Media Center titled “Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014.”

Let’s start with journalism. But wait, you say. What about Oprah, Diane Sawyer, and Barbara Walters—there is an abundance of female journalists! While many females have risen to prominence in journalism, the fact is that female representation in television newsrooms has declined from 79 to 78.6 percent and female representation in print newsrooms has declined from 36.9 to 36.3 percent in the past decade. Furthermore, in the news stories reported and written, the majority of the quotes and bylines were men’s.

For those behind the bigger screen, it’s the same story. In 2012, of the 1,228 directors, writers and producers of films, only 16.7 percent were female.
The highest paid female movie star, actress Angelina Jolie made roughly the same amount as the two lowest paid male stars in Hollywood. Additionally, of female actresses who had screen time in 2012, only 28.4 percent had speaking roles.

While all of these facts point to a systemic problem that underlies many other problems with the representation of women in the media, the first step is recognizing that the gender disparity exists, not only in the media, but perpetrated by the media (be sure to watch the film Miss Representation for a stunningly crafted look into this). The next step is to realize that there are women who are working to change the status quo.

Arianna Huffington is one such woman. Huffington, the chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, has encouraged women to become involved in the media and in business ventures, as she did in founding The Huffington Post. Huffington is putting her words into practice, as well as at The Huffington Post has more female bylines than any other comparable online news site (CNN, The Daily Beast or Fox News).

There are miles and miles of ground to cover before we might be able to name more females in media than males. As Women’s Media Center President Julie Burton states, “The numbers tell a clear story for the need for change on every media platform.” While change may be difficult, the amount of females in media studies programs, such as the Communications and Media Studies minor here at Tufts, gives hope for future progress.

— Lauren Witte