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Should Facebook be banned?

Each week Arabian Business magazine discusses a popular issue. This week it asks Andrew White and Claire Ferris-Lay: Should Facebook be banned?

Andrew White: Yes

It may have 30 million users worldwide, but you'll never find me on Facebook. The social networking phenomenon, which allows users to create profiles containing photos and lists of personal interests, exchange private or public messages, and join groups of friends, is the second most popular destination on the web. Nevertheless, it represents dangerous territory - a messy fingerprint that blurs the line between work and play, and one that could leave an indelible mark on your career.

In March, in a poll of 500 employers by UK recruitment agency Poolia, two thirds admitted to regularly carrying out internet searches, including checking social networking sites including Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. An even larger poll, of 2000 workers and 600 employers, by the social networking site Viadeo suggested that one organisation in five carries out such checks - and that a quarter of those that did had rejected applicants as a result. Who's to say that those ‘hilarious' Ibiza holiday snaps won't find their way into the hands of an unimpressed potential employer? And do you really want to be struck off the candidate list before you've even got to the interview stage, on the pretext that the boss doesn't like what he's seen of you on a website that was supposed to be the private domain of trusted friends?

There's also a good reason why firms are increasingly looking to ban Facebook in the office - quite simply, there are enough distractions in the workplace without obsessing over what might make a good profile photo. A recent US study found that the average 18 to 34 year-old spends 45 minutes of each work day conducting personal business on the internet. For many addicts, however, 45 minutes just isn't enough - and their work is bound to suffer as a result. After all, why schedule a meeting or pick up the phone, when it's more interesting to sit there ‘poking' an old acquaintance you haven't bothered to keep in touch with for the last 30 years?

Face facts. Thanks to Facebook, your boss probably already knows a lot more about you than you'd like - which means you'd best get back to work before his or her patience runs out...

Claire Ferris-Lay: No

How can 30 million people be wrong? With a simple layout and easy to use homepage, Facebook is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The site is a great alternative to stay in contact with friends and family back home, without the expensive phone calls, of which we are all casualties of. Post pictures, have conversations with friends - past and present - and for those with slightly voyeuristic tendencies, check out what your mates got up to at the weekend.

Unlike other networking sites, Facebook fans are not bombarded with strange requests from people wanting to be their friends -unless it's one of their strange pals that is. And, not everyone has access to your page - allow your friends total access to your site or offer them limited access. You choose. How can scaremongering stories of potential employers checking your site be true when prior permission must be sought from the user? Even if they were to check your site - it might be hard to believe but people certainly do have lives outside of work.

Staying in contact with friends through Facebook is actually easier than using regular emails because it doesn't matter that you sent a one line message or a cheesy free gift. Finding long-lost friends is an added benefit of the site. If you've lost contact with friends then the chances are they will be on Facebook. As much as anti-Facebookers claim they don't want to be friends with people they haven't seen for years, it can be quite therapeutic to see which of your school friends are doing now.

Cynics who think Facebook is a waste of employee time should try joining one of thousands of business-oriented groups which can not only be used to source potential employees but also be utilised to form a powerful business networking tool. Group messaging allows users to get informed of up and coming events and can be a useful tool for innovative events companies and recruiters alike.

Using Facebook for business purposes was not an after-thought, the inventors of Facebook, are after all, Harvard graduates and recognised the potential of the site.

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