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Monday, August 17, 2009

Facebook, Your Purpose Please?

In my struggles with Facebook, I have come to realize after reading the online NeoSmart files, that Facebook has become what the mall once was. Not because adults aren't interested in moving existing relationships online, but only because Facebook and other Web 2.0 social network sites are all about taking things from real-life youth and putting them online. Photo albums, Flickr. diaries, blogs, home videos, YouTube, on and on -- this is the online mall for the younger generation. One wise reader made this comment about Facebook: "Perhaps facebook was originally meant to be more academically oriented (geared towards colleges and universities after all), and not the "omg! lol! i have toes! g2g" crowd its turned out to be." After all, danger lurks in more academic pursuits. People on Facebook may actually become alienated when dialogue stirs debate and enters a realm of thoughtful discussion. After all, isn't the mall often a pasture for those who wish to idly pass the time and graze aimlessly among their own kind? In reality, Facebook and the faceless, corporate Facebook is salivating at all of that personal data just waiting to be manipulated and sold somehow in the commercial world. Facebook is free to use personal information as it sees fit. And, unless members offer their lives and souls, Facebook owns the information forever, even after these members cancel their subscriptions. The public most often uses Facebook to manipulate messages that range from blips about present activities and emotions to explicit pictures and often cruel, even bullying, comments. It seems as if Facebook has transformed into an easy way to advertise ones popularity, wealth and appearance on a social network. Reaching people faster than a speeding cell phone, Facebook often pushes the envelope of acceptable content. Often, Facebook chatter centers on problems, lost loves, and "woe is me" rhetorical comments. To quote, Facebook has become a new drug for a young generation: " Known for it’s ability to suck time out of thin air, Facebook is the opium of the twenty-something generation." Racy, trendy, and flirty features are much less likely to draw the ire of Facebook than serious conversation or mentoring of any kind. Amid the clutter on Facebook are good intentions. But, are they just another dying store in the busy mall? Do most care about content while sorting through the applications, quizzes, and fluff? There is even a Poke feature on Facebook that is so accurately described in their FAQ's as "... a way to interact with your friends on Facebook. When we created the poke, we thought it would be cool to have a feature without any specific purpose. People interpret the poke in many different ways, and we encourage you to come up with your own meanings.” How clever, just "Poke" and whatever furtive meaning occurs, poking was just in fun. In actuality, “Facebook” is a website for college students to network through profiles, groups, and pictures. One student talked of the mountainous collection of groups for Facebook applicants. MSU student Alex Daniels says “I think its stupid. People need to come to terms with who they are. If your not cute, get outta the cute group.” ( Evidently, Alex is the presiding emperor of cuteness. Yet, Facebook says it is meant to reinforce pre-existing social connections. Here is part of an e-mail sent by Facebook to one deleted user: "Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you, not a “social networking site”. It is meant to help reinforce pre-existing social connections, not build large groups of new ones. If this is in direct contrast to what you expected as legitimate Facebook usage, I apologize for any confusion. This is simply the intention behind the site." A user may be adding too many friends too quickly and be declared "disabled," but controversy over a popular Facebook application by Alamofire called PackRat, where users collect sets of illustrated cards for points and levels says that users generate up to 500 daily page views per day on the application trying to hunt down the right card to complete a collection. Some users create Facebook accounts for the sole purpose of playing the game. And now Facebook is quietly making changes to their data structure to allow for the concept of “networking.” Currently on Facebook, users can say they are looking for friendship, dating, a relationship, random play or “whatever I can get.” Is this quite a contradition? If Facebook does not want to be considered as a social networking site, why the changes? Then, in truth or in Facebook's conception, MySpace is at the top of social networking still. Facebook mall needs to redefine its purpose. It certainly needs to clarify its intended audience and rewrite, with absolute clarity, its procedures and policies. Vagueness often breeds contempt in a social context. Maybe the new "transparency" associated with Facebook haa revealed a structure without a trustworthy framework. Whatever the case, the youngsters flock to the mall to wile away the hours in fruitless delight. So, lol, lol, lol. In fact, to the tune of 65 million net application installs over the course of the past 30 days. That’s an average of 2.5 installed applications per every registered Facebook user. (, June 2007)
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