Some of the complaints above about the harmful effects of the internet or information technology hardware do not appear to have much to do with Facebook. If someone is addicted to their phone, for example, it is very possible that they are just addicted to their ongoing text message gossip among their peer group - or to Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, a favorite blog, porn, or something else.
I want to mention a few reasons why my own experiences with Facebook seem, on the whole, much more wholesome than the experiences I have had with most other locations on the internet.
Much of the internet is anonymous, but Facebook is generally not. Anonymity gives people the opportunity to express themselves licentiously, without putting the reputation of their public identity at risk. The results are not always salubrious. Several blogs I once visited have been ruined because the conversation is dominated by a handful of toxic, angry lunatics, identified only by a nickname or a first name, with an open invitation to disgorge all of the hateful misery they are experiencing on the heads of everyone who happens to be available. Anonymity also provides more opportunities for marketers, public relations professionals, and various kinds of propagandists to ply their trades deceptively, while adopting an appearance of neutrality.
Many people on Facebook, I suspect most, have large collections of Facebook friends, and these collections are a much more diverse group than the groups they will interact with elsewhere on the internet, or in private life. On Facebook my friends include my close and extended families, friends of my family members, and their spouses and relatives, my co-workers, my former-co-workers, my academic and scholarly friends and associates, and all sorts of political and internet-based friends and associates. I experience a much wider range of opinions and attitudes than I do on any other internet site. Also, the presence of all of these people exerts a continuous pressure on me to be my most “responsible self” - a self I don’t mind exposing to almost everyone I know. If I behave badly on Facebook, my son sees it, my mom sees it, my business associates see it, my intellectual friends see it. If I express snobbish and disdainful attitudes among my intellectual friends, my less educationally advantaged friends see that, and would be hurt. If I express anti-intellectual attitudes among the latter, my more intellectual friends will view my words negatively. All of this pushes in the direction of maintaining an integrated, single identity, responsible to many people and interests at once.
My news feed is filled with many media stories from a diverse group of global sources, much more than if I was narrowing my news content by getting all my news from some online news tunnel filled with like-thinking people thematically self-selected by political orientation or some other ideological similarity, and which often seem to thrive by becoming a kind of support group for fearful people, who huddle together to feed themselves comfortable, prejudice-reinforcing vanities and propaganda, and who rapidly gang up on, and exile, trolls - who are in some cases merely people who disagree with the dominant opinions on the site.
If a site like Sutta Central does not descend into the most all-to-frequently common internet insanity, that is because it is heavily moderated. If that moderation were removed, I suspect that within less than two weeks SC would become the standard blogospheric rage-fest , overrun by angry political commentary, routine misogyny, verbal violence, and daily indecent exposures of the kind of unhinged hatred that comes out when social inhibitions are removed and people feel free to become online warriors of “political incorrectness” or some other self-dramatizing species of what they see as heroic truth-telling.
Also, we should remember that many people suffer from extreme loneliness, or are cut off geographically from their close friends and loved ones, or are so old that they are not very mobile any more. So the ability to make use of an online social network is invaluable for them. They can see videos and pictures of their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, along with the college and high school graduations, the prom dates, the first day on the job, etc.
All that said, I feel almost certain that if the Buddha were around, he would institute rules prohibiting his monks from all online social networking altogether, just as he forbade them from hanging out in markets, family homes and brothels.
By the way, my son has been traveling around the world with his girlfriend for six months. When he posts pictures on Facebook, they are mostly of the places he is visiting. But sometimes he posts a selfie. And we are darn happy he does, because we miss him and love seeing his face!