Just as soon as I logged on to Facebook last Monday, an ad containing explicit content flashed on the right-hard corner of my profile. I blushed with embarrassment and tried to cancel the ad, but instead of getting cancelled a web link of unmentionable content opened in a new window!
I quickly closed the window but felt guilty for using Facebook. People also use inappropriate language on facebook all the time, especially in their status. Every day taboo words are splattered all across my newsfeed.
The truth is that Facebook is actually meant for 18+ users. Since our parents don’t monitor our internet use, underage teens, like me, often come across embarrassing content not meant for our eyes. I feel guilty when I come across such stuff, because I know my parents would strongly disapprove of my facebook use if they were ever aware of the dark side of social networking. Yet, I cannot stop Facebooking; it’s such a guilty pleasure.
Many teenagers are hooked on to social media sites such as Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. While social networking may seem like harmless entertainment, there is a dark side to it. It might seem to avid Facebook users that they have a great social life. But is this really the case?
Facebook and Twitter addicts, like me, end up spending several hours scrapping and tweeting and snooping on their friend’s profiles. Yet they can actually use all this time meeting their real life friends and spending some quality time with them. Many of my friends are so devoted to the cyber community that they have completely forgotten about the real world. Sadly, they now have more friends on Facebook than they do in real life.
The World Wide Web can literally act like a web which entangles impressionable youth and distracts them from important concerns of life, like their studies.
It’s no secret that teenagers nowadays are paying more attention to ‘adding’ new friends and ‘sharing’ web links on facebook than focusing on their studies. My 16-year-old friend Yasir is one of the brightest students of our school, but his grades have suffered a lot ever since his parents gifted him his own laptop. During our term tests a month ago, he flunked math — a subject he was previously excellent at. Yet his substandard performance was not as disturbing as his careless attitude; Yasir simply did not care about his low grade but was more concerned about updating his new profile picture.
Another example is of my 12-year-old cousin, Salman. Once he saw a picture of my cellphone on Facebook, he got upset for not owning a mobile phone. Instead of focusing on studies and sports, he was more concerned about owning a cellular device at his tender age! It’s amazing how facebook can make one forget your age and want things you should not even know about!
A big danger of underage users surfing the web, is their lack of knowledge about spams, hoaxes and pranks. Spammers usually email people with fake attractive offers, like the possibility of “earning $300 everyday online.” When I was still a newbie on the internet, I actually took one of these hoaxes seriously, and clicked on the link emailed to me. The links then asked me type in my mail username and password and when I did, my hotmail account got hacked and I was unable to ever access it. Thank God I did not have any personal information in my hotmail, otherwise I could have gotten into some real trouble!
Another time, an even worse incident happened. An unknown person hacked my uncle Osama’s account and then started to add all his contacts, including me and my cousins. Pretending to be my uncle, the hacker once started chatting with me. Duped into believing that he was really uncle Osama, I gave him my cell phone number after which I started getting blank calls. That’s when I realised that he was not my uncle, but in fact a random stranger to whom I had given my personal number!
So even though most of us, teenagers, continue to use social networking sites, we need to be careful. There are many dangers lurking on the internet, and if we are not cautious we could be hapless victims. I am sure none of us want to underperform at school or have our information hacked by wicked strangers.
With additional input from Zain Abbas
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2011.