Facebook – almost everyone has an account, and if you don’t, you know someone who does. It’s a global internet phenomenon that just turned 10 years old. In the corporate world of consumerism, anything that lasts 10 years is old. But is 10 years really that old? It’s not when you consider a person of that age using Facebook as a primary platform for social interaction. If you’re over the age of 20, you probably remember your most fundamental instrument for communication with friends at 10 years old being the house telephone (and even then it was limited – “no more than 5 minutes!” Mum would say). You counted your most special friends as those whose numbers you knew off by heart, and if you wanted to exchange holiday photos you’d have to pay a personal visit.
Nowadays Facebook offers this rather convenient pulpit of internet wasteland, where you can interact with your friends on a number of levels without even leaving your house. Chat with Karen’s-sons-neighbours-cousins-daughter about her job interview over the instant messaging service, or flick through your Dentists’ snaps from Spain on the way to work. It’s a very good way of keeping everyone in the know about everyone you don’t really know.
Recently, Facebook came under fire in the US for what anyone would consider a breach of privacy; imagine your 11-year-old daughter is a fan of Miley Cyrus’ music. Let’s say the said 11-year-old finds a Facebook page for Miley Cyrus that she’s invited to ‘Like’, as she does, Facebook gives that page permission to use her image alongside the page when being advertised in sidebars and newsfeeds, associating her face with an endorsement alongside something you may not want your kid to be identified with. Facebook have been in a two-year battle over this privacy matter, and shockingly US judges have sided with Facebook and agreed to keep the terms as they are.
Whilst Facebook has opened up a new way of approaching social networking, it’s also exposed a great deal of the world’s otherwise well-kept secrets. Many people display behaviors on social networking that would be considered quite inappropriate in person – socially unacceptable jokes and comments are shared and spread like wildfire by Facebook users, it in effect allows people to wear a mask and hide behind a keyboard.
Such is the latest Facebook craze to cause a stir; NekNomination is a social drinking game triggered in Australia that has found its way onto Facebook to a positive reception by younger users. However, the result of several fatalities across the world has brought the game into media spotlight. The craze – predominantly targeted at young men – challenges contestants to mix a concoction of different alcoholic drinks and other substances to make it the as undrinkable as possible. Once finished, they then have to nominate other people to do the same – and it’s all caught on video, and then shared through Facebook.
But the craze has resulted in the deaths of 3 men in the UK alone, and a number of others in other corners of the world.
So does Facebook serve as a positive connection to social networking? Is it a harmless platform to keep in contact with friends you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see much of, or is it a deadly tool in the hands of a generation consumed with showing themselves off?