Facebook Status Updates, Comments, Likes and Posts are as ubiquitous as the hills around Thimphu, besides the popular Poke and Poke Back. Welcome to the world of The Facebook, the online community where flirting with that cute person that sits next to you in class is only one click away.
Gone are the days when people actually asked “hey, how are you?” Today it’s “are you on Facebook?” Since its foundation in 2004 at Harvard University by Zukerberg, Saverin, Moskovitz and Hughes, Facebook today is the world’s largest social networking site worth billions.
The internet is the new communication portal and Facebook is the number one mailman. In a world overwhelmed by television channels, commercials, billboards, magazine advertisements and the like, the power that the media holds and how it influences society has become an accustomed and accepted part of our daily lives. When we watch television or surf the internet investing vast amounts of time, we see how media reports shape opinions. Does People Magazine, Cosmopolitan, or US Weekly advertise anything other than fashion, gossip and celebrities? These rumor magazines showcase celebrities and the culture of celebrity, with the teen market as its most loyal readers, selling the hottest gossip about their teen idols. More often than not, the idea of beauty is ushered in by such magazines, telling you what defines ‘beauty’. While girls become obsessed with losing weight, young men are influenced by body builders and the use of steroids to achieve their idea of the “perfect” body. The result is a perfect anatomy of stress and paranoia.
In that sense, the magazines they read and the channels they watch have an impact beyond the physical boundaries. Yet today, with accelerating technological innovation, there is one place where people preferably hangout more than they do in bars or libraries and this is where Facebook becomes the de facto social platform.
What grew as a campus communication in Harvard expanded to other colleges in the Boston area; Stanford University to the other Ivy League colleges. Expanding more and more as it gained popularity, opening to high school students and finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. And now it’s in here in the Himalayas where someone goes for an interview and the interviewer looks propitiously and asks “you look very familiar, are you on my friend list?” And to no surprise, a boss walks out of his cabin and figures out all his staff on Facebook and what they have been up to, the very reason Facebook has been mired in increasing controversies. It has also been banned at many places of work to discourage employees from ‘wasting time’ and ‘blocked’ intermittently in several governmental institutions, organizations, companies and countries including Pakistan, Syria, the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, and Iran. Facebook’s privacy has also been an issue, and the safety of their users has been compromised several times. Facebook settled a lawsuit regarding claims over source code and intellectual property. The site has also been involved in controversy over the sale of fans and friends.
Besides contradictions and controversies,the appeal is huge: “Why is abbreviation such a long word?” Posted Seldon. She immediately had a lot of ‘Likes’. Karma posted back “because you added an extra N.” It is a new way of keeping yourself involved doing something good for nothing or at best, finding people easily, keeping the messages short and sweet and getting things done, mostly casual-business networking. Facebook is the new drug. Even parliamentarians are using the social network to share their ideas and connect with the younger generation, a sizeable vote bank. Parents are on Facebook, keeping in touch with their children. Businesses is conducted, institutions use the platform, together we with monks and banks. Every Tom, Dick, Harry, Karma, Pema and Dawa uses Facebook, but then, so does Obama. Now that must mean something.