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Facebook Live: Friend or Foe?

As one of Facebook's original users, Camille has seen its evolution. She currently abstains from it, but keeps abreast of its developments.

Do the pros of Facebook Live really outweigh the cons?

Do the pros of Facebook Live really outweigh the cons?

By the time you read this, there's a good chance that someone else's death was broadcast live on Facebook. Of these deaths, Mark Zuckerberg—the 21st century's most famous Wunderkind—will probably say that Facebook is doing everything it can to prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future. He said just that at Facebook's April 2017 conference:

"We have a lot of work and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening."

The point of Facebook Live, according to Zuckerberg—and, by extension, Facebook—is a "raw, emotional, visceral way to share and connect . . . ". Watching people suffering breakdowns and murdering people LIVE is certainly emotional and visceral, but is it good for society? Is Facebook Live a friend or a foe?

Pros and Cons of Facebook Live

Let's take a look at the advantages and drawbacks of this live-streaming service.

Pros

  • Free to use
  • Easy to use
  • Helps people connect
  • Free to use: Facebook is—and has always been—free to use. The platform began experimenting with ads in the form of "sponsored stories" in early 2012. Users currently see ads embedded in their "feeds". Advertising comprises most of the company's revenue. The ad-supported model works, and the company appears to have no plans to charge.
  • Easy to use: Starting a live feed takes three simple steps. Presumably, anyone who can post on Facebook can start a live video from either their computer or phone.
  • Helps people connect: At more than 3 billion users (roughly half of Earth's population), Facebook is the largest social network in the world. If you want to connect with the greatest number of people possible, Facebook is probably the cheapest and most effective way to do it.
Facebook Live is free and easy to use, but it has led to violent content.

Facebook Live is free and easy to use, but it has led to violent content.

Cons

  • No preventative measures in place
  • Violent content may encourage copycats
  • Violent content negatively impacts children

Examples of Facebook Live Deaths

(Sadly, this is not a comprehensive list.)

  • August 24, 2017: An unidentified man in Mashpee, MA hung himself.
  • June 19, 2017:
    "Aspiring YouTube star" Pedro Ruiz was shot in the chest by his girlfriend. His death is believed to be accidental.
  • May 13, 2017:
    A 33-year-old musician set himself on fire in front of his ex-girlfriend's bar. He "broadcast the moment he set himself alight".
  • April 26, 2017: An Alabama man live-streamed his suicide.
  • April 25, 2017: An 11-month-old baby was killed by her 20-year-old father in Thailand. He then killed himself.
  • April 16, 2017: A 74-year-old man was killed by a stranger who live-streamed it.
  • January 25, 2017: A 14-year-old girl from Miami live-streamed her suicide.
  • January 23, 2017: An aspiring actor died after shooting himself.
  • October 11, 2016: A young Turkish man committed suicide after expressing his devastation over a breakup.
Concerns over live-streaming existed even back in 2008 with Justin.tv.

Concerns over live-streaming existed even back in 2008 with Justin.tv.

Was the Writing on the Wall With Justin.tv?

In a now prescient article from 2008, gigaom.com author Liz Gannes reported on the death of 19-year-old Abraham Biggs. Abraham, aka CandyJunkie, committed suicide by ingesting pills. He did so live on Justin.tv. Gannes asks, ". . . what could sites like Justin.tv possibly do to prevent live-streamed snuff films?"

Despite nearly a decade of innovation (and hopefully research), preventative measures are few and far between. Live stream technology—and social media in general—has the power to connect us. It also has the power to harm us, starting with the most vulnerable and impressionable of our society: our children.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Comments

Camille Harris (author) from SF Bay Area on May 13, 2017:

Great insights, Joween. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

Joween from Davao City on May 12, 2017:

Facebook is basically a good platform with its features, but some people tend to abuse it. It is the primary "wall" in someone's life by posting your emotions to it. It can summarized as a digital library of emotions of real people. However, because of its free-to-use nature, it is also bombarded by people who can physically and mentally abuse other people.

Facebook is a tap or click away to show people your emotions. I admit, I had once thought of suicide and planned to post something before doing it and obviously, I realized my mistake and didn't do it.

In relation to this article, Facebook Live is just a tool. It can't be a friend or a foe, the people behind every stream should take responsibility of their actions. Also, people who are close to the person streaming should always monitor their activities.

Camille Harris (author) from SF Bay Area on May 06, 2017:

Thanks for your comment, Sanjay!

Camille Harris (author) from SF Bay Area on May 05, 2017:

Thanks for your comment, @MizBejabbers! I agree ("people will always misuse something, no matter how beneficial it is to others"). I have no idea what the solution to an issue like this is, but I figure more education and conversations about it can't hurt. Thank you for contributing to that conversation.

Sanjay Sharma from Mandi (HP) India on May 04, 2017:

In the present age of identity crisis, a large chunk of population wants to become popular and powerful even in negative manner. The live streaming of negative things like suicides, murders, rapes etc. should be immediately removed by Facebook.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 04, 2017:

Too much of any good thing can become dangerous or even deadly. People need water, but a person can drink himself to death. Ever hear of water poisoning? My point is that people will always misuse something, no matter how beneficial it is to others, and it is not fair to deprive the moderates because of a few fanatics. My family uses Facebook to keep in touch, and that includes family members that have never met. We are able to get acquainted and carry on conversations just as if we lived in the same town. I have a cousin whose “other side” of the family are Europeans, and I’ve been privileged to get acquainted with them. I’m sure there are others who can tell a similar story. However, despite the positive side, an 11-year-old girl did have her own page and did harm to my family. Her family removed her page.

I do get tired of political soapboxes, but I like the way Facebook is used to bring about awareness of social issues like abused animals or people in need. I think for every tragedy posted on Facebook, there are probably millions of positive posts. I think that any large organization that answers complaints by removing tragic or distasteful posts is doing its job. So I don’t believe in throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

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