Facebook forges new era of communication

January 13, 2012 — by Edward Dong and Grace Ma

Just seven years after founder Mark Zuckerberg introduced the site to his fellow Harvard classmates to study and share notes for an art history final, Facebook has now expanded into an international website with more than 800 million active users. With the average Facebook user connected to at least 80 groups, community pages and events, Facebook has become the largest social media network in the world.

This surge in popularity and everyday use has revolutionized, to some extent, the ways in which students communicate.

“I think [being so dependent on Facebook] is a good thing in general for social purposes,” sophomore Gloria Liou said. “Honestly, you don’t really have the time to go to someone else’s house and have a nice face-to-face conversation anymore.”

Facebook allows students like Liou and junior Ashley Joshi to maintain friendships online.

“Nowadays with homework, classes, extracurriculars and sports, I don’t think we have as much time to hang out with our friends,” Joshi said. “Facebook just makes it a lot more convenient to keep in touch with the people we know.”

But because of the ease with which one can become “friends” with another person on Facebook, many students fear that friends are no longer what they used to be.

“Usually, [being] friends on Facebook means that you two have seen each other,” freshman Mounika Narayanan said. “Sometimes you don’t even have to have talked with them.”

Joshi agrees that Facebook has somewhat altered the meaning of friendship.

“I guess Facebook has kind of lessened the value of friendship, since now you can be friends with anyone just by clicking a button,” Joshi said. With nearly 950 online friends, Joshi estimates that she would consider only 90 of them good friends outside of Facebook.

Liou has also noticed the growing distinction between the online friend and the traditional friend.
“There are friends you talk to online and then there are your normal friends,” Liou said. “There are some people that you talk to a lot online, but in person it’s really awkward.”

Liou admits that only a fraction, around 20, of her 800 Facebook friends are actually true friends that she hangs out with. The majority are people she met through classes and summer camps.

Nevertheless, Liou made a long-lasting friend through Facebook when she came to Redwood Middle School in the middle of seventh grade.

“My shadow buddy was [sophomore] Stephanie Chu, and we added each other on Facebook first. Then we met, and now we’re friends,” Liou said.

Junior Kevin Chen sees Facebook’s influence in a positive light.

“I think [Facebook] only strengthens friendships,” Chen said. “I have never started a good friendship on Facebook, and the strong friendships I already had only got stronger because of how easy it is to share opinions.”

For Chen, another plus to Facebook is how easy it has become to share information and organize school-wide events.

“When I tried to advertise for Philosophy Club, I didn't think first of fliers, but rather the event organizer,” Chen said. “A lot of students on campus check Facebook much more often than they do the walls of school.”

The event organizer features additional qualities that make it more convenient than traditional fliers.
“It is more ‘green,’ and it lets me know how many people to expect, something that fliers cannot do,” Chen said. “On Facebook, people can also ask questions about the events and have them answered efficiently.”

According to Chen, Facebook’s ability to connect students extends to helping them express their emotions.

“I don’t think you can hide your personality whether you’re online or not. Although people often say, ‘Haha’ or ‘LOL,’ those aren’t accessories, but rather an online translation of the laughter and smiles they would have if you talked in person,” Chen said. “It seems like people are ‘fake’ online, but in fact it’s just how emotions translate into text that seems different.”

Narayanan agrees that Facebook can sometimes allow people to express themselves more freely.
“On Facebook it’s always easier to talk to someone you don’t know too well behind the computer screen,” Narayanan said.

Nevertheless, Narayanan acknowledges that online friends often stay only online friends.
“In real life we know we only have a certain set of close friends,” Narayanan said.

Joshi agrees that her circle of closer friends has remained as it always was, without much impact from Facebook.

“Even though I have ‘friends’ on Facebook, I don’t really have that many true friends,” Joshi said. “Facebook kind of makes me feel more accepted.”

Although Chen also claims that not all of his Facebook friends are genuine friends in real life, he appreciates his new ability to network with a vast number of people.

“I think Facebook has become essential to our social lives, especially in our generation. The features it continues to add only help us connect more with people we might have never known,” Chen said. “We all get to know each other better, and I don’t find that detrimental to any relationship.”

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