5 Excellent Reasons to Avoid Facebook

Privacy, Rights

If you’re reading this, odds are you have at least one social networking account. Half of online adults have a social networking profile; three in four teens have at least one.

More than 500 million of us are on Facebook alone, posting inappropriate status updates for friends, family, and co-workers to pretend they didn’t read come Monday morning. “Friend” has become a verb; we tell near-strangers we’ll friend them as a matter of course.

If you want to keep up with old classmates, see baby pictures, or find out about the neighborhood block party, Facebook seems like the place to be. But there are actually some good reasons to ignore the social networking trend.

1. It’s stressful
Psychologists from Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland recently discovered that the more Facebook friends you have, the more stressed out you’re likely to be. While the majority of respondents to the survey said they don’t find participation on Facebook stressful, those who did averaged nearly 120 friends each. The non-stressed-out averaged under 75 friends.

2. It’s addictive
Do you leave a Facebook or Twitter app open all day on your work computer or smartphone? Do you constantly check to see what your friends, favorite celebrities, and total strangers are doing? Aside from the very real dangers of getting in trouble at work or school, forgetting to feed your kids, and losing sleep, a new study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University warns that young adults who use social networking sites are at risk for other, more dangerous addictive behaviors. Teenagers who spend time on Facebook are up to five times more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana than their peers who spend little time on social networking sites.

3. Overshare much?
Social media, by its very nature, encourages us to share thoughts, feelings, and events in our lives. It’s easy to forget how many people you might end up sharing with, however. Most social media sites have privacy settings you can tweak to control who sees your posts, but the default is usually public, and most people never get around to changing that.

You might not care if your mom or your boss knows about Friday night’s hot date, but even seemingly innocuous information may lead to unwanted oversharing. And savvy tech thieves can collect an amazing amount of personal information by poking around an unsecured profile — your mom’s maiden name, for instance, your address, mobile phone number, names of family members and friends, where you work and where you bank — and use that information to commit identiy theft.

4. Come steal my stuff!
A related risk: if you check in on foursquare or other location sites and share the post with Facebook or Twitter, you could be sharing your schedule not just with friends and relatives, but also with criminals looking for an easy mark.  You’re advertising you’re not at home, and you may have shared more than enough to let a savvy thief figure out where you live. You can put both your identity and your stuff at risk of theft by oversharing. Not the smartest plan ever.

5. It never goes away
Nearly half of all employers use Google searches to seek information on applicants for jobs, with Facebook and LinkedIn being common destinations. More than half of these employers said they found revealing, provocative, or inappropriate information or pictures on potential new hires this way, and 35 percent found bad-mouthing of previous employers or co-workers. Additionally, the number of employers discovering negative information that influenced them not to hire someone was more than double the number who were positively influenced.

Bottom line, if you must use Facebook — which most of us do — at least be wise and make use of the provided privacy controls. Employ some common sense to protect your privacy, your career, and your stuff. In short, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss, your grandma, or your parole officer to know about.