It’s emerged as one of the most popular ways to connect with friends, family and long-lost acquaintances, but nearly one-quarter of Canadians believe Facebook has played a more negative than positive role in society, a new poll suggests.
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey, conducted March 27 to 30, asked more than 1,000 people about the social networking site’s impact on society. While 40 per cent said Facebook was a positive force, 24 per cent said it played a more negative role. The remainder declined to take a stand.
“There’s no question it looks, to a certain number of people, as something that can be used as much for negative purposes as for positive purposes,” Harris-Decima spokesman Bruce Anderson said Friday from Ottawa. “There’ve been plenty of stories obviously in the media over the last couple of years about cyber-bullying of one sort or another and I think that’s part of what we’re picking up a reaction to.”
Since launching as a university-only website in 2004, Facebook has exploded into a cultural phenomenon claiming to have more than 70 million users worldwide. In recent years, it’s faced criticism over privacy concerns and controversy over online bullying.
Most of its users tend to be young, the survey suggests, with more than half of people younger than 25 reporting they used Facebook, compared to only 10 per cent of those age 50 and older. Not surprisingly, the poll also suggests there is a generation gap in how Facebook is perceived, with younger people more likely to value the service. Sixty-seven per cent of participants younger than 25 saw it in a positive light, while only 27 per cent of those 50 and older felt the same way.
“Familiarity breeds a higher degree of comfort and acceptance and positivity towards these new technologies and older people may be less familiar with them and feel more indifferent,” said Anderson, who noted that roughly half of the older group declined altogether from taking a side. “This looks like a situation where there’s probably some of that but also maybe … (there’s) older people who haven’t experienced the positive effects of Facebook but hear the news stories about some of the negative aspects (and) may be accentuating the negative a little bit more.”
Those who saw Facebook in a negative light included 22 per cent of the younger group and 26 per cent of the older group. The survey also found 26 per cent of those polled said they used Facebook, while only 17 per cent had never heard of it. Overall, 73 per cent of those who said they used Facebook saw it as having a positive influence, while 12 per cent felt it was negative. Among non-users, 29 per cent felt that Facebook was playing a positive role in society, while 27 per cent felt its role was negative.
The survey polled more than 1,000 people and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
-with a report from CP
Friday, April 11, 2008