Is Facebook a blessing or a curse?

Published: Tuesday, March 23 2010 12:18 a.m. MDT

Facebook is the world's largest social network, with more than 400 million users. Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, who recently stated, "It's a large number, but the way we think about this is that we're just getting started on our goal of connecting everyone!"

That is an incredibly ambitious goal, but the way it has taken off, he might actually accomplish it. Here's why I say that; let's look at some recent company figures:

  • 50 percent of the 400 million users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • More than 60 million status updates posted each day
  • More than 3 billion photos uploaded to the site each month
  • More than 5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week 
  • More than 1.5 million local businesses have active pages on Facebook 
  • Pages have created more than 5.3 billion fans
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Let me start by saying that I LOVE Facebook — it has given me the opportunity to connect with people that I haven't seen or talked to in decades. It has brought back sweet memories of friends from my childhood swimming days. Some of the best years ever were spent playing in the pool, traveling as a team to compete. Of course, we all grew up, my family moved to California and I left a lot of my Greek fellow swimmers behind. What was not left behind were all the special memories. Now through the magic of Facebook, we've reconnected and it has been a wonderful blessing.

Going to my high school reunion last summer also opened the doors to reconnecting with fellow water polo and swimming teammates and other friends that had drifted apart over the years. One of the great benefits of this social network is bringing all these different "parts" of our lives together under the same roof. Even though these people live all over the world, we get to become friends again. We chat, share pictures, updates of our lives and families, joke and reminisce. We share our interests, we network and support each other's endeavors.

All of these things are terrific, but there's also a darker side to all this "connecting."

According to PCWorld, "Facebook is cited in one out of every five divorce petitions, according to some new research published this week. The research comes by way of a British divorce center called Divorce-Online. The center claims about 20 percent of all divorce documents include some type of reference to Facebook.

"The root of the problem should come as no surprise: Too many spouses are using the social network for flirting — or more.

"'The most common reason seemed to be people having inappropriate sexual chats with people they were not supposed to,'" Mark Keenan, Divorce-Online's managing director, is quoted as saying.

Sadly, I personally know this to be true, even within the LDS community.

As LDS author Laura Brotherson stated in her book, "And They Were Not Ashamed," "While divorce destroys about five in ten marriages, many of those couples who stay married settle into the emotional emptiness of marital mediocrity, creating what is called a 'parallel marriage.' Couples in parallel marriages may share a house and a life but they don't share their hearts."

These couples are extremely vulnerable to begin with. When a spouse starts down the path of reconnecting with an old boyfriend or girlfriend, it is a recipe for disaster. Of course, there's always an initial excitement when we reconnect with anyone from our past. However, that excitement can easily turn to flirtation or more, which can lead to other inappropriate behaviors and threaten the very existence of eternal unions.

As with all technological advancements (think of the Internet and Internet pornography), there are always two sides to everything. It is crucial that we become aware not only of the benefits but also of the potential minefields. Setting certain boundaries ahead of time will help us enjoy all the benefits of Facebook without succumbing to the temptations.

For example, if you're typing something or sending a picture you wouldn't want your spouse to see, that's a red flag for inappropriateness. If you find yourself having feelings for someone else other than your spouse, talk to a counselor or someone you trust. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable by flirting with you, as flattering as it might seem, it's dangerous. You might want to "de-friend" them as a safety precaution. Our marriages, our children's safety and the future of our families are depending on it.

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