Saturday, February 1, 2014

Facebook - enhancing family culture or degrading childhood opportunities? You decide here are some facts

facebook facts
Ninety-four per cent of American ­teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 are on Facebook, and in Britain one in five ­children between nine and 12 are thought to have a Facebook page, despite the rule you must be over 13.

Several of my teenage daughter’s friends — who once read books or even, heaven forbid, got on their bikes or played a game of tennis — no longer show their faces at all; their time at home is spent hunched over computers with blank, elsewhere, ­expressions. (A ­quarter of 14 and 15-year-olds now spend four to five hours a day on social media sites.)

That’s why Mark Zuckerberg is the man who stole ­childhood.

And it has made him very, very rich. This week, it was announced that his ­website is worth a ­staggering $150 billion.

Facebook sounds, on the ­surface of it, such an innocent idea. When you set up your account, you register your name, post a photo of yourself, state your current relationship ­status (boxes to tick include ‘open relationship’ and ‘it’s complicated’) and, if relevant, what you are ‘looking for’.
You are invited to create your own profile, to share your ­religious and ­political views, your favourite films, books, quotes, music, and activities. Photographs of ­holidays and nights out can be uploaded, and there is a ‘wall’ on which your messages and ­invitations can be posted.

You can write mini-blogs such as ‘Susan is feeling confused’, ‘Janet is enjoying the city’, and ‘Simon is looking forward to the weekend’ — no comment is ­considered too banal — and join Facebook groups, such as ‘Guilty attractions to ­cartoon characters’.

If you have nothing much to say, you can communicate with your friends the Facebook way by ‘poking’ them — a way of ­saying ‘hello’.

Should you find yourself ­receiving a ‘bitch-slap’, a large hand will appear on your page with the name of the sender. Alternatively, you can let your contacts know that you are thinking of them by ‘throwing a digital sheep’ in their direction or by the more traditional method of ­‘stalking’ (spending a lot of time on their page).

All harmless fun, or so it seems. But Zuckerberg has tapped into a frailty in the human character, and now, in the week Facebook will mark its tenth birthday, it’s ­impossible to escape the ­conclusion that this has been the decade when privacy died.

Historians have recognised that privacy is the privilege of modern society; what distinguishes ­civilised from primitive societies is our increasing respect for ­private space. Yet Facebook grates against that because it’s about being ­permanently visible.

Now even the most private moments — such as births and deaths — are hastily shared on social media. When people lose a loved one, they often create a memorial page ­allowing all and sundry to openly ‘grieve’ together.

Rather than thoughtful letters from friends, the grieving instead receive uncomfortably trivial posts such as ‘RIP!!!’ and mawkish tributes to their loved ones from virtual strangers.

Indeed, in this seductive world, your ‘friends’ are the people you invite to have access to your Facebook page, and the object is to increase their numbers. ­Virtual friendship is about quantity, not quality; many of your Facebook friends might be people you barely know.

Having rounded up a crowd of people to observe your online life, you need to create a life worth observing; it is therefore ­necessary to load your page with photographs in which you can be seen to be having a great time.

Facebook personalities are ‘fun’; people advertise themselves like colourful goods in shop windows.
Zuckerberg recognised our obsession with instant and ­talent-free celebrity; we might be insignificant in our daily lives, but on Facebook we have fans. It is like having our own reality TV show. There is now such a thing as being ‘Facebook famous’.

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