Friday, March 29, 2013

Facebook And Social Networking: The Modern Road Into Turmoil Or Change

           On that winters day in 2004 when Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg and five of his fellow students founded this small social network site in his dorm, I'm unsure if he could've known that in a decades time that Facebook would become the defining example of a successful online social network. It allows artists and photographers to share their work with other people with every growing options for personal privacy. And with its friend finding options it allows long lost friends to reunite after sometimes years of not knowing where the other was. People can share thoughts and accompanying pictures to illustrate them. And with its additionally growing connectivity to other websites all over the internet its become the most popular and successful social network site in the history of the medium.

             I myself have made at least two videos for YouTube on the subject of Facebook and at least a half dozen more that reference the site. One of the most significant things one can say about Facebook are that it's champions and detractors are extremely electric-in the sense that each have equal and opposite reactions towards the social network. As it is in most cases I see myself as standing very much as a type of dormant nucleolus in the center of the molecule of those two opposing electrons of personal opinion to extend the metaphor. I can definitely see logic and truth on both sides of the dialog among people regarding Facebook. So here I am going to present to you the two opposing arguments as I hear them and than my own thoughts on the subject.

              Those who basically oppose Facebook seem to come at the issue from the points of few of generationalism and personal security. The first aspect of this point of view maintains that in the past decade, the level of access to intellectual knowledge, including access to the internet has grown so large that it intimidates most people. And as a result, social networks such as Facebook have come to showcase the lowest common denominator of intelligence among what some of it's users elect to post on that site-such as semi profane language and inappropriate photography. People making this point often tend to cite the same argument with Facebook and social networking that they would tend to have with television: that it does not promote the same level of imagination and creativity they were reared on as children mostly from the very different sociopolitical ethic of that particular era.

             Security on just about any website has been a major topic of discourse since the medium began. Social networking, especially on a site as popular and widely used as Facebook, brings that discourse to new heights of heated debate. Again generationalism plays into this to some degree. If someone reared in the era before internet is themselves online , they will tend to be inclined to use the medium mainly to read articles from the news media-which in itself espouses mainly the point of view of others in their given age group. Online media forums such as Yahoo! and Google News often showcase articles that warn parents and relatives of Facebook users of updates to the site that compromise security, often using language rife with scare tactics. In reality Facebook has many opportunities for online bullying and stalkers if ones Facebook page isn't secured properly. Yet it can also in reality be secured with the proper knowledge and settings on ones Facebook page.

            Those who support and advocate Facebook tend to be of the opinion that Facebook liberates humanity-especially young people. It has become a transient world in the past two decades. And it's difficult to maintain long term friendships for young people where it was less complicated in their parents generation-when families would tend to live in the same community for many years and had each other for companionship and support. With social networks as vast and available worldwide as Facebook has become the possibility emerges for people not only to reconnect with old friends but to make new ones-often from places they'd previously never have access to. The level of human understanding and educational possibilities that arise from this are vast and exciting.  While the sites detractors will also add that many will add friends on Facebook simply as a form of online socializing contests or to play online games easier, those exciting possibilities to understand others remain.

           Probably the most positive aspects of Facebook's existence stems from this possibility of understanding. And that is the sites ability to affect social change. Not many years ago Facebook was indirectly the catalyst for a peaceful political revolution in Egypt that, in another case, could've easily ended in ruined lives and bloodshed among its participants. The historic election of President Barack Obama, for both of his terms as president, have occurred during the height of Facebook's enormous popularity. And it could be clearly seen during both elections how Obama's unique and humanistic technique of running his campaign owed a great deal to the different Facebook community pages created by social organizations in and out of the capital who supported his administration and it's goals for the future. Local, national and even international political figures have also been able to network with the public via Facebook in the same manner as well.

         This also extends into how Facebook has come to champion grassroots level social politicking as well. Activists groups such as the Occupy movement and organizations hoping to put an end to sociological scourges such as homophobia and weapons of mass destruction have thrived and expanded because of Facebook. Just a few days ago, an organization hoping to defeat the homophobic bill DOMA in Washington encouraged Facebook users to place a red "equality" symbol on their Facebook profile and a special banner behind it-in order to show support for the freedom for people of the same sex to be allowed to get married legally in America. The change on which the current presidential administration is encouraging for America and the rest of the world is in fact being helped along greatly by the networking possibilities Facebook has provided.

         So there it stands. Two sides of the same coin in the social dialog about the social network known as Facebook. Both sides are actually complimentary to each other in many ways. While it is true that on occasion Facebook has made abrupt site and security changes without announcing them to their users, and while some undesirable individuals have used the medium to cause difficulties for other users, these factors (as with many parts of life) are really based in human frailties that existed long before Facebook-let alone the internet. In terms of Facebook's positive traits, its method of allowing people to interact is extremely innovative. As well as separating family and friends, the transient society of the last two decades has made affecting change on society next to impossible symptomatically of that reality. Facebook's main advantage is to open doors between people that nearly closed due to a happenstance of a generational perversity. And if Facebook is to represent that open door, in the long term that could only beget good.

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