Sunday 24th february, 2008

 
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Addicted to Facebook

“Yes,” wrote someone on my Facebook “wall” in response to my “status” message, “you clearly are ‘the last person on the planet to join Facebook.’ No, wait. The vagrant outside RBTT Independence Square has that distinction.”

LOL.

As I truthfully typed, I do, indeed, feel I am “clearly the last person on the planet to join Facebook.” After all, the Web site has been around for four years (which, in Internet years, like dog years, makes it well in its prime), and already has more than 64 million members. About 85 per cent of university students use it, and 14 million personal photos are uploaded daily. I mean, practically everybody in the world is on it; even you’re on it.

And about 63 million of those members are Facebook addicts. Make that 63 million plus one.

Facebook.com is a social networking hub where you fill in as much information about yourself as you can into your profile, including background data such as your place and date of birth, the high schools and universities you attended, and the organisations and companies of which you are a member.

With this kind of database, you can easily conduct streamlined searches for long-lost friends—all of them—such as those with whom you went to nursery school and now live in Timbuktu.

Considering, as I said before, that everybody’s on the Web site, it really is that easy. Plus, with the ability to upload innumerable photos of yourself and append as much info as you can to your profile, people can not simply get in contact with you, but also readily see how old you are, who’s on your friends list, if you’re married or divorced, where you’ve reached in life, and how fat you’ve become.

‘Macoing’

And here enters one of the pitfalls of Facebook.

According to one long-lost friend now in the UK, “now everybody go know we business.”

Searching for long-lost friends is one thing. Suddenly you are bestowed by technology with the opportunity to reconnect effortlessly with people you’ve longed to see, and connect with people you do see but aren’t normally able to connect with. But “macoing” what everybody is doing is quite another.

Facebook has become a most invasive tool. Unless users limit access to their profiles, anyone can be updated in a second as to what’s going on in the lives of others. UWI students beware: employers may well look you up to see those drunken Carnival photos.

The amount of time users spend daily on the Web site, searching aimlessly and “macoing” assiduously, is also of great concern, especially in the workplace.

“I confess I do check the site at least five times a day,” wrote a friend now living and working in Houston.

Another friend in Barbados is on the site so often her status changes according to whatever miniscule task she’s doing: “Aneesha is working on a presentation;” then, “Aneesha has the flu;” and soon after, “Aneesha really wishes she didn’t have to work on her presentation while having the flu.”

Like the online crazes of yester-year (remember ICQ?), employees lose an immoderate number of productive hours wandering through the site.

And more often than not, they are trying to outnumber their friends in increasing the number of friends on their friends lists by searching through their friends’ friends lists to see who they might somehow remotely know by several hundred degrees of separation.

“New to Facebook and 100-plus friends already? What a life!” wrote an old “friend” on my “wall” recently.

Yes, indeed. I lead the enviable life.

Or I could simply be adding every Tom, Dick and Harrylal to my list.

In the fortnight or so that I’ve been a Facebook user, I’ve racked up about 130 friends, yet there’s nothing enviable about that.

I have a friend (a real one) who has 301 “friends” on his friends list. I cannot imaging someone being so popular or being able to devote time even to half of them. Some great friend he must be.

But that’s nothing compared to another friend of mine. She’s nice and pretty and likable and popular—extremely popular: she has 588 friends.

Growing

Everybody is trying to outdo—or outnumber—the other. And it really does say a lot about our generation: that we’re technologically inclined and willing to try new things, but also competitive, insecure, “macoscious” and pliant—the comparison condition.

A major part of the reason I took so long to join Facebook was because my first visit to the site was diametrically harrowing. I saw all sorts of nobodies and A-holes from school now sunning themselves in Rio, climbing volcanoes in Nairobi, and pursuing MPhils and PhDs at top universities..

But somehow, I outgrew it. And I find the more focus I place on me and my my profile, the less insecure I feel about everybody else’s.

And, really, with all those long long friends lists, since when does size really matter?

See you on Facebook.

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