Saturday, October 04, 2008

Are you on Facebook? And is it ruining your life?

I hardly check my Facebook and just keep hanging there for a virtual presence without much purpose. Anyway, thanks for those who have linked and requested as my 'friends', appreciate the gesture and will stay friends.

For those unfamiliar with this Internet phenomenon, Facebook is a website that allows users to set up a free personal web space where they can provide a little sketch of their life. They put together a profile page outlining their favourite TV shows, books and quotes with little blurbs about themselves explaining where they work or go to school, pictures, blogs and personalized message boards known as 'walls.'

Facebook and other social networks like My Space have truly redefined how we communicate and what constitutes community. On the one hand, it's fascinating to be a part of something so global and so immediate. The minute something occurs, there's a Facebook page on it. On the other hand, cyberspace is a fake reality and sometimes creates false connections. There's a reason we didn't stay in touch with all our old high school friends…

When Facebook was launched by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 while attending Harvard University as a sophomore, it was designed as a way for college students to connect with each other. Users created a personal page and were able to accept or send out electronic 'friend' requests for people to be included in their networks. People who were 'friends' were able to keep tabs on people in their network, send messages and even connect with friends of friends. It was like an exclusive club, since it was open only to those with certain email addresses.

But as Facebook's popularity soared, its founders sought to expand its audience. In 2005, it allowed high school students to sign on. But it was the 2006 decision to open it up to the general public that drew howls from its original audience and now facebook is the largest social networking with more than 100 million facebookers and has made Zuckerberg a young billionaire.

At the end of the day, Facebook is not a social activity, although it may be construed as such. Facebook means sitting at home alone in front of my laptop, reading about and staring at all the people I know, always separated by real time and virtual distance.

But in the face of that pervasive isolation and loneliness, I'm always just a click away from seeing my "friends"--the people who thought enough about me to confirm the fact that I knew them. They're all sitting there--a gallery of smiling faces arranged alphabetically that always make me feel better, even though that really shouldn't be the case.

Some have had enough of Facebook....

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