Wading through Facebook

2010-05-28 00:00

FACEBOOK, the social networking site created by a young college geek in 2006, is now worth over $5 billion. Over 400 million users have signed up, my granny included.

Since its straightforward beginning as a communicative tool, it has expanded and allowed a number of ludicrous applications to be included.

Just the other day I was browsing through fan pages (applications that allow people to make sensational statements and see how many people “become fans” of them) and found one titled: “Can dead warthogs get more fans than Julius Malema?”.

The group’s picture was of a dead warthog lying on its back, legs in the air, and stomach cut open, revealing its insides. Upon reading some of the comments made in the group, I was shocked at how crude and hateful about Malema some people had been. It seems that in cyberspace, people feel more powerful and throw their weight around while hiding behind a computer screen.

And many people forget that Facebook isn’t real. Several applications — such as Farmville, Fishville, Yoville and Mafia Wars — are designed and based on real-life things. Some people enjoy planting and harvesting fake, interactive crops instead of actually clearing their own back yards and planting flowers. I have a friend who set an alarm for 2 am so that he/she/it (name shall remain anonymous to avoid severe embarrassment) could harvest a crop of strawberries before they went rotten. This was just before I broke her computer to save her soul.

I was an active participant in these interactive games during long, dreary holidays and spent hours running my islandresorts. I used pigs to collect truffles, threatened “mafia” members into giving me money ... it was a troubling time for me, until I came to my senses and realised that I was beginning to schedule my plans so that they wouldn’t coincide with the time that my Fishville aquarium fish would be ready to sell. It is no wonder that Facebook has been banned at high schools and many workplaces as a result of the distraction it creates.

The worst thing to see on my home page is “lovey-dovey” statuses. The last thing I want to read splashed all over the page are things like: “Oh swtie poo canoodle, im so hapi tings wrked out btwn us, cudnt imagin my lyf wifout u, I luv u xxx.”

Why people believe that Facebook users are interested in their childish, broadcast love lives is a mystery to me.

The concept of being able to “like” someone’s status has also become something of a popularity contest, to see how many likes you can get. I don’t want a status that no one likes, it just shows that what you have to say holds no merit for anyone. I once saw a status that read: “However many likes I get on this status will be the number of drinks I have tonight.” Come night-time, there were 64. Be careful what you wish for.

Speaking of being careful what you wish for, many young girls dress revealingly and pose seductively in their profile pictures to entice men, but what many of these girls probably aren’t aware of, is that if you don’t change your privacy settings, your whole profile is available for public viewing. There have been cases of paedophilia where sexual predators have created fake profiles and used attractive photos, as well as charming conversation, to lure girls to their homes.

But even with all its faults, Facebook has become an invaluable tool for communication in our lives. There are many people I would never speak to if it weren’t for this ingenious website — like my weird cousins from Hungary.

Now let’s see how many “likes” this column can get.

• Stef Martin is a Grade 11pupil at St Anne’s College.

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