University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

A life without Facebook

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Jan 21, 2011

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If you type ‘Facebook’ into Google, you will get around 3 billion results in 0.06 seconds. Unless you have been hiding underneath Brighton Pier for the last five years, you will have heard of the phenomenon known as Facebook. I myself do not have a Facebook profile. An expression of gasped faces is the usual response I get from people when they find this out. Facebook is integral to our lifestyles nowadays; many times I have been told to ‘look at our Facebook page for more information’ by companies, ‘add your name to our guestlist on Facebook’ for club entry and so on. Many seemingly unconnected sites now have a ‘like’ button included on their webpage, so you can link the site directly to you Facebook page. This begs the question; how difficult is it to live without a Facebook profile when it appears that the rest of the human population seems to have a profile?

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, who has since become the world’s youngest billionaire, allegedly having $6.9 billion in 2010, at the age of 26. However, Facebook has not avoided controversy during its time, and has been involved in privacy issues amidst fears of the user’s personal information being released to the public. When Facebook began to gain popularity, it appeared that Facebook would fade out within a year or so as Myspace had done, and something would soon replace it, as Twitter may do.

When I first heard that a film was being made about Facebook in 2008, I thought that by 2010 when the film would be released, Facebook would be long gone by then. How wrong this assumption was. As of July 2010, Facebook has over 500 million active users, the equivalent to one person in every fourteen in the world having a Facebook profile. Quite an achievement for the Harvard students who launched Facebook, and originally intended it for use of Harvard students only. Facebook now has an estimated revenue of $800 million per year.

I struggle to think of many people among my friends, family and colleagues who do not have a profile. It appears that there are two types of Facebook users; the person who will constantly update their status every 10 minutes to tell people exactly what they are doing, such as standing at a train station, waiting for pizza to be delivered and so on. They also will post every picture of every event they have been to in their life on Facebook and tag everybody they know on it, and add everyone they have ever met as a ‘friend’. The second type of user may generally use Facebook to stalk old school friends and occasionally update their status or change their profile picture. But, without a Facebook profile, how could I know this?

Well, I have a confession to make; I did once have a Facebook profile. Yes, a lovely Facebook profile which lasted me exactly two days. Two days. I had been intrigued about Facebook for a while up until this point, coupled with peer pressure. It seems odd that there would be peer pressure to make a Facebook profile, as if in the same category as being peer pressured into taking drugs or having sex. I had been stubborn enough to refuse to make a profile for a while, but pressure was increasing, mostly from my friend Claire. I decided to make a profile and I decided only to add close friends rather than everyone I had ever met. Skip 24 hours. I had friend requests.

Mostly from people I had maybe spoken to about seven or eight times in secondary school. I rejected most, only to be overcome with a feeling of guilt. A few searches of profiles, and I found peoples picture of their dinner, there seemed to be a lot of dinner pictures for some reason. Also, posts such as ‘If only he can see how much I like him!?’ and similar, appearing to be begging for attention. Skip another 24 hours, and I would have deleted my account. Facebook were crafty, and you initially could not delete your account, you could only ‘deactivate’ the account but still be tagged in pictures, invited to events etc, basically defeating the purpose of the account being ‘inactive’. After some research, I managed to delete my profile.

I know my experience is limited to just me and I am constantly assured of how many people I know love Facebook and find it wonderful to beable to talk to old schoolmates and such. I cannot deny that it can be difficult without a Facebook profile; being told almost everyday to make an account, getting told about events the day before they occur because people have forgotten to tell me as I don’t have Facebook.

However, there are perfect examples of Facebook being the cause of problems. In a nutshell; The Jeremy Kyle Show. The amount of times a guest says how they have caught their partner chatting to other men/woman on Facebook or looking up their ex-partners or some other such occurrence, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Does anybody really want to spend all day searching their exs on Facebook; mostly I feel just to compare how their life now is to yours?

As an avid fan of Channel 4’s ‘The IT Crowd’ written by Graham Linehan, the episode ‘Friendface’ in Series 3 is a wonderfully ironic portrayal (but mostly parody) of sites such as Facebook. The Friendface advert proclaims; ‘We own everything you put on Friendface, it says so in the terms and conditions, but don’t worry about that, we won’t use it to do anything bad – we promise. Just think about love and companionship, and everything’s fine.’ How ironic. Especially in relation to the privacy issues that have plagued Facebook since 2004. There is also the scene when Jen, Moss and Roy are all sitting in a room together on Friendface, and Jen proclaims ‘I love this, I feel so social’ only to be met with silence amoung the sound of typing.

Ongoing is the debate as to whether social networking makes us more or less sociable, as we appear to be socialising less in person, but more and more over the internet. As the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg unveils new plans for a ‘modern messaging system’ via Facebook to replace the formality of email, we can only wonder at what the future of Facebook will be, and indeed the future of social networking. As the American magazine, ‘Entertainment Weekly’ have put it; ‘How on earth did we stalk our exes, remember our co-workers’ birthdays, bug our friends, and play a rousing game of Scrabble before Facebook?’

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