Facebook: Personal PR agent or something more sinister?

Facebook: Personal PR agent or something more sinister?

In an interview with Fred Vogelstein of Wired, Mark Zuckerberg made the following claim about how people use the social media giant that he co-founded:


“Think about what people are doing on Facebook today. They’re keeping up with their friends and family, but they’re also building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand. They’re connecting with the audience that they want to connect to. It’s almost a disadvantage if you’re not on it now.”


Doesn’t this language sound a lot like the language used for PR?


Facebook is like the PR agency between an individual and society. It’s no surprise that Zuckerberg used language like “building an image and identity,” “brand,” and “connecting with the audience.” Facebook acts as a medium that one can use to present him or herself to the world in a controlled manner.


Facebook currently has over one billion active users. (sheknows.com)

Facebook currently has over one billion active users. (sheknows.com)

In PR, we build images and identity. So does Facebook. In PR, we brand certain groups or individuals. So does Facebook. In PR, we attempt to connect with specific audiences. So does Facebook.


Is it problematic that Facebook has become a sort of personal PR agent for its users? Probably.


In a study that he participated in and presented at the American Psychological Association convention, Larry Rosen studied the psychological impact of Facebook. He claimed, “real-world empathy is six times more important than virtual empathy in making someone feel supported.”


Facebook many times inflates its users with a false sense of accomplishment and happiness. As Rosen pointed out, though, this happiness is limited to the virtual world and doesn’t transfer so easily into real-life satisfaction.


A study at the University of Missouri even linked Facebook with depression. Because Facebook can encourage and empower envy, the study claims that feelings of depression can easily arise as a result.


The society that we live in is growing continuously attached to the virtual. It’s more important than ever to question what this could entail, and to remain the owner of your own identity.


Have you noticed any differences in your own life since you started to use Facebook. Share your thoughts below or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness

Ryan Lawless

Ryan Lawless is an undergraduate student at Fordham University. He studies English and Spanish as majors, and philosophy as a minor. He won the Margaret Lamb Writing to the Right-Hand Margin award for creative fictional writing, and has been published in Fordham's literary magazine The Ampersand, and its newspaper, The Observer. Ryan grew up in New York, but is also an Irish citizen. He enjoys fiddles, coffee, and music.

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