Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just Facebook Me

I was reading over some of my Brock Press articles the other day, and with all the attention from the Canadian Facebook 2013 debacle has received, I thought this one was more relevant than ever. A bit more existential than the average Blog about social media, but relevant nonetheless.

Issue date: 1/15/08 Section: Opinion

There may be few things that all Brock students have in common, but an obsession with Facebook is likely one of them. A quick glance over the shoulder of somebody 'working' in one of the computer labs, or at a laptop screen in lecture and you can see this for yourself.

These unfortunate souls have been trapped by a web application that claims to provide the opportunity to represent yourself however you like, and to do so in front of almost everyone in your life.

What was once just a small social networking site has exploded into a phenomenon that is changing the very way we communicate with each other.

Its amazing that almost everyone you've ever known that is your age is more than likely on Facebook. This kind of networking capacity is exciting, but can also present numerous challenges for people unaware of its power.

If the government had issued a mandate that all citizens needed to upload their personal information into a searchable online database, the outcry would be enormous.

Perhaps it's because Facebook has a variety of privacy settings that many people feel comfortable enough to upload their names, birthdays, job and education information, pictures of themselves, and a whole host of other information onto a web application that is now searchable through Google. This isn't to say that we are all in some grave danger because we post these things, but it is interesting to see how much of ourselves we are willing to put online for the world to see.

Facebook acts as somewhat of an autobiography for some people. It is a forum where people can choose what aspects of their lives they want to publicize, and in so doing they manufacture an image of themselves. I'm sure we all know a few obsessed people who hurriedly return home from even the most mundane events to tag pictures, update their status and write wall postings to as many people as they can to discuss whatever it was that just happened. This is all pretty harmless most of the time, however; dealing with personal issues in a very public way can add a new stressful dynamic to our lives.

If you can believe it, this goes far beyond the dreaded 'relationship status' change that many face from time to time.

Recently, in Ontario, there have been examples of suspected young offenders exposed on Facebook. Harassment charges, expulsion from school and job losses have all occurred because of Facebook in this province alone. This says nothing about sexual predators, murders, and suicides that have been directly linked to social networking sites in the United States. Hopefully these kinds of issues are outside the personal experience of members Brock community, but it is likely they aren't.

An increasing number of employers are searching through online networking sites to learn more about their current or potential employees. This means that when you apply for your next summer job it is possible that the person interviewing you will be creeping your profile looking directly into your personal life to see what kind of employee you might be.

This may not matter for most people, but if you have friends who make vulgar wall posts, you post risqué photos or do anything else that an employer might be interested in, you could be jeopardizing your job and not even know it.

Facebook gives us the opportunity to communicate with an enormous online community made up of the who's who of our pasts. What it also does is create a new avenue for people to feel that they need to constantly construct their public identity. We are rarely free from the lure of adding new information to our accounts and making sure it adequately represents who we think we are. Perhaps the popularity of

Facebook stems from the impossibility of this project. Regardless, it might be wise to gain some perspective on what we decide is important for everyone in our lives to know. Our online actions likely have consequences that we haven't thought about. As Facebook continues to grow, that ripple effect is only becoming larger.

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