Ten years ago on Feb. 4, 2004, most of us were still in elementary or middle school enjoying the everyday bliss of childhood. As we played on the swings and colored in books, a website was being launched that would transform the way we communicate with others for the rest of our lives.
Facebook first went live in 2004 exclusively for Harvard students and was extended to include solely Ivy League universities before allowing anyone over the age of 13 to enter into the website’s domain.
Clearly, Zuckerberg did something right. He is currently worth $27.9 billion, while Facebook as a company is worth over 100 billion dollars. Of the more than one billion users, an estimated seventy eight percent stem from mobile device users. With the increasing popularity of smartphones and immediate communication, it seems that Facebook has wholly infiltrated the way we live our lives, whether we like it or not.
The allure of Facebook seems to be different for all people. Some only request people that they know, some friend request anyone that seems attractive. But regardless, we all use it as an easy and immediate tool to engage in coversations.
Moms, dads, aunts and uncles are joining the website at an increasingly high rate, hoping to reconnect with old friends or more likely to keep an eye on their college-aged children and their worrisome shenanigans. Some people do not even have a choice in when their lives start to become publically documented for the entire world to see.
Scroll through someone’s newsfeed today and you are likely to see at least one picture of a new-born baby, or a status written by a new mom asking how to handle her child’s first cough or cold.
The obsession with publicizing one’s business has become normal and even expected. It seems there has been a transistion from trying to maintain frienships via the web to uploading anything and everything about ones social life.
College students seem to embody this phenomenon. Whether its uploading photographs of a fancy dinner, or making a witty status by hacking your best friends Facebook, we go to great lengths to put our business on the internet instead of sharing these special moments in person.
Has this always been the intention of Facebook’s founders, or did the public take this notion of openness to a new level?
In an open letter to Facebook users, Zuckerberg shed some light on his initial intentions for the website, saying, “My goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with.”
Facebook certainly has changed the way that people exchange information, but the question remains—was it for the better or worse? Has our tendency to technologically upload a picture or send someone a message through the Internet made us less prepared for human interaction and more adept for social anxiety?
The New York Times claims that yes, Facebook has created “wallflowers” out of its users. Nothing is more pertinent in society today than the fear of missing out on seeing that a friend has uploaded a picture from her exciting night out, while you are lying in bed with a bowl of ice cream and Netflix.
Sherry Turkle, a professor of the social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote a book, “Alone Together,” in which she comments on the disadvantages of a technologically obsessed society and how it can damage children’s and adult’s abilities to properly communicate. She writes that technology “makes it easy to communicate when we wish and to disengage at will.”
Many students can relate to this idea. Most of us deactivate our Facebooks when we have an important assignment due, and reactivate them once we have more time to procrastinate or socialize. The “do not disturb” option on the iPhone makes it even easier to turn off the world of social media for a few minutes before rejoining its overwhelming hold on us.
Turkle’s interviews with adolescents and adults are proof of the damage that has already been done to our generation. Young people admitted to disliking phone calls because they are impromptu and leave most feeling unprepared, vulnerable to the natural inflections of one’s tone of voice that may reveal emotions and feelings usually kept hidden through a text message.
New York Times writer Michiko Kakutani reviewed Turkle’s book and commented on its display of how “online life tends to promote more superficial, emotionally lazy relationships.”
Facebook plays a large part in these “emotionally lazy relationships.” Calling a friend from home to catch up may take a half hour, so we like their profile picture instead to show we’re thinking about them. Posting a link on someone’s “wall” is easier than walking up to their room to show them in person. Though it seems outdated, “poking” was a popular way to tell someone you had a crush on them or thought they were cute, instead of having to open yourself up to the face-to-face rejection that comes along with having a conversation.
The fact that Valentine’s Day is tomorrow brings into perspective all the relationships and friendships we have that are meaningful to us. The people that we don’t just acquaint ourselves with, but the ones we cannot imagine living without−friends from high school who have stayed in our lives and those that did not make the cut.
How many of your 3,000 Facebook friends can you say you actually care about? How many people’s birthdays do you know from memory without having to check the Event button on your Newsfeed? Those are the relationships we need to capitalize on, and maybe spend some time deleting the “friends” who were never really important to us in the first place.
Actions speak louder than words in this society. On this Valentine’s Day, make an effort to tell the people you love that you love them in person. There’s no doubting they will appreciate it, and it will even save your iPhone some much needed battery life.