November 14, 2008

Facebook: The Impersonal Means of Communication

by Alissa Scheller

I sign onto Facebook almost every single time I’m using my computer. As I’m writing this, I have my Facebook homepage open on my desktop. It’s how I keep in touch with my friends from home, it’s how I hear about events I want to go to, and quite frankly, it’s just a really good way to put off doing anything productive.

Facebook, the popular social networking web site, was created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. It was initially limited to college students, but currently can be used by anyone with an e-mail address who chooses to sign up. Users can join networks corresponding to their school, workplace or area, add friends, join groups, add a multitude of soc-called “applications” (ranging from “Which character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer are you?” to so-called charitable “causes” that the user supports) and “facechat” with their friends.

The web site, which has more than 120 million active users worldwide, has played a significant role in the transformation of communication. Over the past few years, we’ve see the emergence of Web 2.0, a new way of using the internet that encourages interconnectivity and interactivity. Users can now actively participate in media, in the forms of blogs, comments on news stories, or on social networking web sites like Facebook.

This change in communication can be seen even in the conversations of my peers and I. We talk about who “friended” us on Facebook, who changed their ever-important relationship status, and who wrote what on whose wall. Another slightly creepy aspect of Facebook is the knowledge that every single one of your friends — your oldest and dearest as well as that kid who sits across the room from you in math class — can see every picture you add, every comment you write and every person you’re friends with.

Facebook has certainly been a major player in changing how we communicate with other people. That is to say, impersonally. With the advent of new communication technology, people have become more and more interconnected — I can communicate with my friends and family across the country almost immediately, at any time I want — however, the cost of instant communication is that it is almost entirely impersonal. Entire relationships can be had without seeing someone’s face or even hearing their voice.

So, Facebook has succeeded, in my opinion, in helping me stay in touch with my friends, but in a completely impersonal way. But, for all my complaining about how totally dehumanizing Facebook really is, what am I going to go do after I finish writing this? Well, I’m probably going to go check Facebook.

(Cartoon by Geek&Poke of Hamburg, Germany via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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1 comment:

Liz M said...

haha i really liked your piece. it's so true too, which probably should be scarier than most take it to be.