By Ben R, 8th Grader
As the minutes tick by from ten to eleven pm, there seems to be only one place to be, Facebook. And whether it’s checking status updates, reading news feed, or posting that one last sarcastic comment on your friend’s wall, time is not of the essence. Let’s face it, most have probably been heare, staying up late until they get the indulgence of seeing that one “notification,” and while I personally don’t use Facebook, there are, no doubt, many that find themselves glued to the screen, craving a social connection.
In the “Facebook” era of social networking, communication and constant output is a necessity in order to stay well-connected. And although social-networking sites typically encourage connections among strangers; like on MySpace, where people converge through common interests, or online dating, where the whole point is to meet and greet new faces; Facebook is geared toward helping people maintain existing relationships. The site basically serves as a self-updating address book, keeping users connected no matter their geographical position. “There are people from my past life that I never would have tracked through 10 job changes and 20 e-mail changes,” says Nicole Ellison, an assistant professor at Michigan State and lead author of the Facebook “Friends” study, which focused on undergraduate usage of the site. Facebook offers what she describes as a “seamless way of keeping in touch that doesn’t involve all this work.”
Even though the site is often credited towards its contributions to the social lives and abilities of people, some feel as though Facebook is taking away from face to face interactions, and that more and more are becoming trapped in what can be referred to as the “Facebook complex.” The Facebook complex emphasizes the idea of a vicious cycle, creating a Facebook, and then spending so much time online that simple real world contact is interrupted. Therefore, is it the Facebook connection or the Facebook isolation?
It was almost seven years ago, in February 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, a then 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, started a web service from his dorm. At that time, it was known as Thefacebook.com, and it was billed as “an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges.” In 2010, Facebook, now excluding the The, added its 550 millionth member. One out of every dozen people on the planet has a Facebook account. They speak over 70 languages and combine to accumulate more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. In November of 2010, the site accounted for 1 out of 4 of all American page views, and its membership is continuing to grow at a rate of about 700,000 people a day.
Since 2004, Facebook has brought together one twelfth of humanity into a single network, and created a social entity almost twice as large as the U.S. In fact, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest, behind only China and India. It has turned into something amazing, something that has completely redefined the way human beings relate to one another throughout the world.
Although Facebook started as an online hub for college students, it is now available to all demographics. Whether it is teenagers, college students or adults, Facebook seems to be providing a social interaction unlike any other. The average user now has 130 friends, and 50% of all of Facebook’s active users will log back in on any given day. This begs the question: why is Facebook this popular among so many people? “It’s an efficient way to communicate with more than two people at the same time,” says Drew Novak, aged 13, of New Jersey, “Facebook lets me keep up with the things going on in my school, and the things going on with my friends.”
There are many who believe that while Facebook isn’t necessarily aiding in improving people’s social skills, it is ameliorating and, on occasion, even strengthening connections with and knowledge about friends and acquaintances. Even so, some of those who are under the impression that Facebook helps social connections have taken the viewpoint that these connections are usually superficial and barely scratch the surface of a deep relationship. “While people tend to interact more on Facebook, and it is very positive in terms of connections, people are becoming and staying connected on a shallow level,” says Scott Novak, Chairmen of the Board of Trustees for the Montclair Community Pre-K, 50, of New Jersey. “They lose important face time and communication skills because there is no facial expressions or body language involved, and correspondence comes in the form of short and brief sentences.” It is beliefs such as these that lead some to think that Facebook is promoting social isolation more than anything else.
One of the most popular locales of Facebook is the world of Farmville, where people can grow crops and even share them with others. It is games and activities such as this that submerge people into a virtual world, where entering can be much harder than exiting. Once you reach the certain level of intensity that Farmville requires, the need to harvest those crops on a daily basis becomes the top priority on the To-Do list. Some studies have even shown that there is a fairly decent chunk of Facebook users that spend more time on Farmville, etc. than they do communicating with others. Does this mean that Facebook is leaving more people isolated in an online world instead of promoting social interactions? Not necessarily. While social isolation is prominent on Facebook, the social interactions being created seem to topple all else. A 2009 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that online “techies” were more likely to be social than just the average American.
Overall, Facebook has truly altered life on Earth, from reinforcing the protests in Egypt to reconnecting with someone from the past; Facebook has continued to reinvent the social system. Facebook is renovating a world of interactions, one “friend” at a time.