When I consider the impact that websites like Facebook and MySpace have brought upon society, I am not convinced that our present generation can fairly evaluate the level of positive or negative change experienced. Consider the cultural change of the late 1960's. The rebellion against authority, to some, signaled a decline of western civilization. Yet as time passed and adjustments were made, America managed to assimilate that idealism and move forward.
With respect to the internet and social media, the technology has really done nothing more than create an easier means of gathering. Now you don't need to go to someone's house or a rally, you can simply make a comment and your 300 or so friends can engage you in dialogue.
So while these can appear as nothing more than an opportunity to have someone look at us, we should be careful not to confuse the ease of something with a new vice.
Where we might find problems is in how we process this wealth of information. For example, in reviewing the "info" of friends (and friends of friends) I am able to see their success based on relationships and\or occupation. Naturally I may compare this to my life and evaluate myself and the decisions I have made.
Now in the past this may have been something, on such a grand scale, that I would have dealt with through a class reunion or a holiday party. However, what Facebook (to use a specific example) allows me is immediate access to even more standards of success. It would not be a reach to state that someone with low self esteem might find such information and indictment of their own failures. In turn, others may be comfortable enough with self and feel sincere joy for their friends or they may see this virtual relationship as a means of networking so to improve their condition.
A great question will always be that which asks to what extent our humanity is eroded or complemented through technology. Advertisers know that persistent imagery through pictures or language can persuade the person to make a specific choice. How different is it to see hundreds of people writing of how much money they make or posting pictures of all the events they go to?
In the end we are accountable for knowing our weaknesses and choosing a world in which they do not control us. Maybe it isn't a good idea to accept every friend request. Maybe we should unfriend those who post links and opinions which cause stress or animosity. The attention we think we're getting can never replace the negative impact which might be pushing us towards failure.