In recent years, some studies have shown that Facebook can be detrimental to mental health. While spending too much time on the social networking site can be harmful, and it has historically been terrible when it comes to protecting your data, Facebook does have several redeeming qualities, especially when used in moderation.
With more than 2 billion monthly active Facebook users, it's important that people across the globe understand how to get something positive out of Facebook usage. Here are seven ways Facebook can benefit you.
Forms professional bonds between competitors
One of Facebook's overarching goals is connecting people. Whether it's old friends, current acquaintances or those looking to meet new people, Facebook wants to bring people together through its website. While not every interaction on Facebook is helpful, there are certain instances when the sheer number of users can be beneficial.
Jo Trizila, president and CEO of TrizCom Public Relations, uses Facebook for both business and personal improvement. Trizila joined a group of fellow PR professionals in the Dallas area, as that's where her firm is based. The group members, who agreed not to steal business from each other, collaborate in the group by sharing tips and advice, such as reporters to pitch to, insurance to consider and software to implement. All information shared with the group stays in the group.
"It truly has been a blessing to meet, collaborate and share thought leadership with my colleagues," Trizila said.
The PR professionals put their egos aside to help each other and improve the quality of the PR industry in the Dallas area.
Offers life advice
With roughly a quarter of the world's population being a monthly active user, Facebook users possess a wealth of combined knowledge. For all the jaw-dropping comments from your wacky relatives, there are useful tidbits of information from reasonable people.
"It truly has been a lifesaver – especially when my daughter was an infant," Trizila said. "I can remember many times when I was up at 3 a.m. with a sick baby and reached out to FB and would always get a response. Someone was ALWAYS up with their parenting wisdom."
Facebook users can share knowledge in areas from parenting advice to practical business solutions. Join credible groups with knowledgeable people to receive advice through the social site.
Builds meaningful friendships with new people
While in-person social interactions are generally better for mental wellbeing than online conversations, Facebook offers a platform for fostering meaningful relationships online, especially if you're housebound. If you're disabled or battling a serious illness, you may be stuck in your house or a hospital for most of the day. In these situations, the power of Facebook is noticeable.
Jess Perna has seen firsthand the impact Facebook can have on people.
"I am an illustrator who has made 3,600 Facebook friends who bought my adult coloring books," Perna said. "Many of the them bought coloring books for something to do, since they are disabled, homebound or in nursing homes. They buy coloring books, join coloring clubs and show their coloring as works in progress, and then the finished results. They compliment each other through the steps and share how-to tips. It gives them the social life they don't have since they live in isolation."
Certain careers carry negative stereotypes. People working as lawyers, politicians or used car salesmen may be considered dishonest just because of their job. With its relationship-building ability, Facebook can help defeat these stereotypes.
"Attorneys are often seen as distant and a bit aloof from the general public," said Kevin Patrick, the owner and founder of Kevin Patrick Law LLC. "To me, though, the key to developing business is making a personal connection. People want to feel like they are human and not just a case number. Facebook has been a great way of making those personal connections."
Patrick posts content that differs from most law firms. Because he shows who he is and who his employees are, potential customers are more willing to work with the company.
"For example, my law firm page doesn't include the typical '10 things to do if you have been in a car accident,' but rather, we focus our posts on ways we have served the community, such as making meals for the homeless and other volunteer activities," Patrick said. "For one, it's the right thing to do, and two, it has helped create a level of trust, and it leads to new cases."
Could help you land a job
With various businesses already using Facebook research to rule out potential employees during key hiring situations, studies show they may soon be using it to determine the best candidates. [Read related story: Social Media Success: A Guide for Job Seekers]
A 2012 study by researchers at Northern Illinois University revealed that impressions from time spent perusing a candidate's Facebook page was a stronger predictor of their likelihood to excel in a job than the personality and IQ surveys many companies require potential employees to complete.
Lead researcher Don Kluemper said the study consisted of asking "raters" to evaluate job candidates based on both Facebook pages and personality tests.
"Our raters could look at the tone of a subject's wall post, note the number of friends they have, peruse their photos to see how social they were, and assess their tastes in books and music," Kluemper told NIU Today after conducting the research in 2012. "We were able to conclude that after a five-minute perusal of a Facebook page, raters were able to answer questions regarding the subject about as reliably as would be expected of a significant other or close friend."
When the researchers asked the candidates' current employers to evaluate them six months later, they found the initial Facebook evaluations were a more accurate predictor of success than other tools, such as personality and IQ tests.
Building a strong, professional profile can also be valuable if you're perusing Facebook's job posting feature, which allows you to apply for jobs through the site. Likewise, companies can post open jobs through Facebook for Business to find candidates.
While many may argue that social media networks only distract employees, research shows the opposite may be true.
Research from Keas found that a 10-minute Facebook break makes employees happier, healthier and more productive.
The study examined workers in three groups: one that was allowed no breaks, one that was allowed to do anything but use the internet, and one that was allowed 10 minutes to use the internet and Facebook. The Facebook group was found to be 16 percent more productive than the group that was not allowed to use the internet and nearly 40 percent more productive than the group that was allowed no breaks.
"Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf on the internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher net total concentration for a day's work and, as a result, increased productivity," said Brent Coker of the management and marketing department at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
Promotes student-teacher interaction
Studies suggest potential benefits for using Facebook as an educational tool. In online classes, or any classes that want to build an increased sense of community, a Facebook group can act as a discussion page for class topics. For example, a modern politics course could create a Facebook group for students to share and respectfully discuss articles about current events. These discussions foster a sense of community and may make students feel more engaged with in-class discussions as well.
Teachers who participate in these discussions can build a better rapport with students. By openly engaging students outside of class, the teacher shows that they genuinely care about the students' understanding. Additionally, teachers who allow students to send them private messages asking for further clarification on topics may develop a stronger sense of trust among their students.
It's important to set ground rules if you're using a Facebook group as a discussion platform. Setting guidelines for professionalism and respect are crucial to successful student-teacher interaction on Facebook.
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks. Some source interviews were conducted for previous versions of this article.