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The Ills of Facebook

April 25, 2008

A method of academic homicide and a tool for procrastination is also the pop culture phenomenon that has us utterly spellbound. I am referring to, of course, none other than Facebook. Before I even possessed a Facebook account (yes, I have fallen captive), I received an e-mail saying, “You have been poked, do you want to poke back?” I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered, offended or violated. I decided I’d first get a Facebook account and then decide.

Before continuing, let us stop and think about all Facebook has to offer: poking, superpoking, photos, status updates, walling, superwalling, funwalling and, as if it weren’t enough, super-advanced-funwalling! No wonder we wouldn’t associate Facebook with, for example, peril. As a matter of fact, “perilous Facebook” seems, more or less, oxymoronic.

What’s the deal with Facebook, then? It started four years ago as an experiment carried out by several Harvard students.As with Shelley’s Frankenstein, these students lost all control over their experiment, although the result was a positive one, most would say.

Facebook, however, makes identity theft and harassing more accessible than ever before. Not surprisingly, though. I may have three different profiles, I may be Angelina Jolie one day, normal teenager María Fernanda Pérez the next day, and God knows who the day after. The honest and blunt truth is that Facebook is nothing but a social pandemic. I even daresay a social cultlike pandemic.

Who can deny that they haven’t been on Facebook for hours upon hours creating the “perfect” profile? The perfect picture is a must, as it is what others see. Secondly, but all the more paramount, is the “About Me” section.We all want to come off as desirable human beings, interesting, we say, and so we resort to physical descriptions about ourselves, which, after all, isn’t such a bad idea as that’s all we care about today: looks.

In all honesty, I could go on forever. Facebook enables one to create a fake image of oneself; it may be used as a mask. It’s dangerous. The line between what is real and what is fantasy blurs, and so we find ourselves living in a fantastic reality.What happened to normal human interaction? What happened to the healthy anxiety one felt when meeting someone new, trying to discover their interests? I’ll tell you what happened: the Internet happened and then Facebook happened.

With Facebook, as once happened with MySpace, and will happen with a new social networking tool, comes a regression we must be aware of: most certainly, we are communicating faster with each other, but every time worse and worse.

I am not here to condemn us Facebook users. I use Facebook on a daily basis, just like any other 16-year-old. I balk when deciding what picture to have; if I use this one, so-and-so might get mad because they’re not in it, etc. I hesitate when I have to write “About Me,” and vacillate when it comes to many other petty decisions, and yet I still have my Facebook profile and probably will have it for the rest of my life, accepting and sending friend requests, writing banalities on other walls, procrastinating every time more and more.

María Fernanda Pérez, 16, is a student at the European School in San Pablo de Heredia, north of the capital. She lives in the northeastern San José suburb of Moravia.

 

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