“I Facebook, therefore I am,” was a headline I read online recently. Almost everyone I know has a Facebook account and it seems people are more and more joining a growing cultural trend of cyber-social networking. If you don’t already have an on-line account, many would argue your missing the boat. Facebook like many social-networking sites has become an increasingly popular outlet that connects computer heads worldwide much closer than anyone could have imagined 25 years ago.
People all over the world are getting more and more information using the Internet that has become the leading domain for research, gathering news, shopping, email and yes, connecting with new and old friends in the creation of personal profiles.
I remember during the early 1990s when email and electronic messaging was new. I didn’t use email until college in 1996. Email was an inexpensive way to keep in touch with family and friends back home.
I only started using sites like MySpace and Facebook recently. I actually did not own my own computer till 2006. The debate that low-income or poverty stricken communities, in the U.S. or abroad, have little access to computers or the Internet is a whole other discussion. A valid one, yes. But the use of computers and Internet access is arguably reaching every corner of the world at a remarkable rapid pace, respectively.
Facebook and sites like it allows users of all ages and backgrounds to share information, hunt for jobs, promote events and even campaign for political causes.
Facebook has 175 million active users worldwide and is one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet. The company, founded in 2004 by then Harvard sophomore, Mike Zuckerberg was originally created as a networking site for Harvard students.
Facebook lets users create a profile page and forge online links with friends and acquaintances. Sites like these have literally become part of people’s social lives. Some argue if you’re not online, you’re not part of what’s going on. For example, people who have been resisting Facebook have now given in because they know its part of social life. Facebook is also for those who may not be so active in real life, on the social scene, yet become cyber-active on the Internet scene, which is becoming more of a reality.
So I wrote to my Facebook friends asking why they like the site and what are some reasons they think it’s useful. Here’s what they had to say.
Joe Henry in Des Moines, Iowa writes, “Facebook is the mode of communication among professionals, activists and trade unionists.”
Carlos Fernandez wrote that Facebook, in one case, was a resource for supporters of 250 workers who occupied their factory in Chicago after they were given a few days notice that the company was closing and had to lay them all off. “The workers’ struggle became much bigger than a Facebook group, but the group helped make some of the solidarity actions bigger,” wrote Fernandez. People who cared but weren’t yet on the lists could find out how to get involved and help, he added.
“Facebook helps me de-stress from a long day,” wrote Jackie Arreola from Chicago. “I enjoy reading people’s profiles, looking at pictures, using some of the applications… It’s fun, mindless activity. Also, it is a great way to keep in touch with people I don’t have the chance to see often,” she said.
Some people find Facebook as a way of reconnecting with old party buddies.
“There were lots of people I knew in high school with whom I used to go to parties, and drink lots of beer,” said Dan Margolis from New York. “We had fun. Over the years, though, many of us drifted away from each other. Now, with Facebook, I’ve reconnected with so many of my old, beer-drinking friends from back in the day.”
Even my girlfriend Patty chimed in on the discussion.
“I use Facebook to keep in touch with people I don’t see on a daily basis,” writes Patty. “I also use it to find out about events that are educational, professional, and social. It’s useful for those who want to share their work with a large network of people.” It’s also good for getting current news, alerts and announcements. “Much like a newsletter,” she said. “It sure beats sending out mailers. It cuts on cost big time.”
With many people out of work these days and a struggling economy, maybe sites like Facebook has its perks. Weather it’s winding down your work day, catching up with old friends, blogging, staying up on current news, supporting a great cause, cutting paper trail costs or planning your next social activity, social networks like Facebook might just be what people need right now.
People shouldn’t feel pressured to join the Facebook revolution. But for those of us on board, we share a sense of inter-connectedness and are a part of a global network that is helping to bring millions together in a rapidly changing world. It’s really kind of cool. See you online.