Hello, and welcome to Social Media Nibbles. I’m Paula O’Sullivan, Social Media Strategist and head Possum at Possum Digital. In this episode I want to ask you the question, ‘To Facebook or not to Facebook?’

It seems that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are regularly not far from the news headlines, and usually not in a good way. Whether it’s the Cambridge Analytica scandal, or being attacked for making wholesale changes to its newsfeed resulting in many publishers losing substantial reach, the perception is that Facebook is losing support, and fast.

Not long ago, the #DeleteFacebook, was trending. Even well-known CEOs like Elon Musk participated in that campaign, and we’ve heard of a UK pub chain that has completely deleted it’s social media presence, or it was intending to anyway.

It seems that there are daily calls to jump off Facebook in the name of protecting your data. Although I’d say it’s a bit late to worry about Facebook, or even Google, having your data ’cause I’d say they’ve pretty much got what we’ve all handed over.

Facebook seems to get a bad rap, it appears more so than any other social network or even big online companies like Google. So is the bad press warranted or deserved?

We must acknowledge up front, in my view, that social networks, including Facebook, have made it much easier to bully others 24/7 and anonymously. We have all heard of, and know about, the keyboard warriors who go out there and troll and destroy lives. We’ve heard of all the trolling that happens, especially towards women, and especially by anonymous keyboard warriors, that is terrifying and just brutal.

And there’s no doubt that it has contributed to changes in how we communicate and relate to each other. How often have we had a quick scan of Facebook before we catch up with someone to know what they’ve been up to? Which does kind of feel like stalking, but I bet you’ve done it at least once, I know I certainly have.

And many of us use Facebook as an escape from everyday life.

Think about this are you able to simply sit by yourself for five minutes with only your thoughts keeping you company, without the temptation to whip out your smart phone for a quick peep at Facebook? Or even Instagram or LinkedIn or something else?

And yet, in spite of all this, Facebook have just announced that it has increased, its daily users in the first quarter of 2018. That is incredible.

So, what can we actually put this down to? In my view, Facebook has become so ingrained in our lives that we have not found anything to replace it. We have become reliant on it to keep in touch with distant friends and relatives, find places to eat out, get recommendations for other goods and services, and share what’s going on in our lives quickly and easily.

My mate, Abbie, told me, “I found Facebook really useful to connect with people I had lost contact with. I found people I went to school with and reconnected. I also feel like it’s a way for me to feel connected and keep in touch with people at home. I love seeing pictures of my cousin’s kids and seeing what friends at home are up to. I’ve not been back to the UK in two years, but I still feel I connect regularly via Facebook.” And I know many, many, many people feel exactly the same way as Abbie does.

Facebook, I believe, facilitates a conversation and a connection with others that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It actually helps us overcome geographical barriers, so that we can have those connections instantaneously. It is much more peer to peer than Twitter or Instagram, and much more personal than Snapchat. And definitely, definitely more personal than LinkedIn.

During the height of the # DeleteFacebook trend, the Guardian published an interesting article titled, “The Missing Link: Why Disabled People Can’t Afford to Delete Facebook.” If you haven’t read it already, I encourage you to seek it out on the Guardian website. I’ll also drop a link of it on the Possum Digital Facebook page, so go and find it there too.

The article explores how Facebook can help people with disabilities overcome social isolation due to physical or mental health issues. It opens up a world of possibility that would otherwise be closed off. And for me, this quote that I’m about to read you is the most compelling quote of the article, and I do want to read the passage directly from the author and leave it in her words.

“For Alice Strick, social media has created new communities and a dream job she thought she never would have. The 28 year old was unable to complete her art degree in 2011 due to severe depression and borderline personality disorder, and she worried that her mental health had totally scuppered her chance of success as an artist. Unable to find an art workshop she could afford during her recovery, she used Facebook to set up her own after others shared the event, 1,000 people asked to attend. Now 18 months later, putting on workshops for women with mental health problems is Strick’s full time job. After forming a connection via Instagram, she has been commissioned to hold one at the Tate. “Without social media” she says, “I would not have had a career that I love and that I am proud of. I wouldn’t be so far along in my mental health recovery.”

And there are certainly many more stories like that.

Another example of Facebook being used for the purposes of good, popped up in my own newsfeed last week. An article from the Sydney Morning Herald on the 26th of April titled, “How Facebook Friends Saved One Man From Execution” talks about how a Yemeni refugee, Mohammed Al-Samawi, relied on people he had met through Facebook, including Australia and the United States, spent 13 days planning his rescue in the midst of civil war.

For Mohammed and his peers, Facebook was also an important source of news within Yemen, he could follow what was going on and escape Yemen alive. It’s an incredibly powerful story, go and read it. I’ll put a link to the article on the Possum Digital Facebook page as well.

Now, coming back to the original question, to Facebook or not to Facebook? Well, I’ll be sticking with Facebook and I know many others will too. As much as it can harm, it can also be a force for good, and that’s what I’ll be focusing on.

Thank you so much for listening, and if you liked what you heard in this podcast, please subscribe and share it with your friends.