Source: The Guardian, August 28
On Monday, one in seven people on Earth used Facebook – 1 billion people, according to founder Mark Zuckerberg. In a decade, the social network has transformed people’s relationships, privacy, their businesses, the news media, helped topple regimes and even changed the meaning of everyday words.
“A more open and connected world is a better world. It brings stronger relationships with those you love, a stronger economy with more opportunities, and a stronger society that reflects all of our values,” wrote Zuckerberg in the post announcing the numbers.
[Here is just one] of the ways his company changed everything – for better or worse.
Facebook has changed the definition of “friend.”
“To friend” is now a verb. And unlike real life when the ending of a friendship can be deeply traumatic, it is easy to “de-friend,” a word invented to describe ditching a casual acquaintance when they are no longer enhancing your Facebook newsfeed.
Although the meaning of the words “share” and “like” are essentially the same, Facebook has brought an entirely new weight to the terms.
High school and university reunions have become redundant – you already know whose career is going well, whether the perfect pair have split and you’ve seen endless pictures of your schoolmates’ babies. You won’t be surprised by an ex in the street with a new girlfriend or boyfriend: you already know they’re dating someone else from the romantic selfies.
But unlike in real life, Facebook has no hierarchy of friendships. A classmate from one project at university who you haven’t seen in 15 years, a friend-of-a-friend from a stag do, or a colleague you’ve never actually spoken to in person – they are all Facebook friends in the same way as your closest mate, or your spouse, or your mum.
It doesn’t necessarily mean we see them the same way. Prof. Robin Dunbar is famous for his research that suggests a person can only have roughly 150 people as a social group. Facebook hasn’t changed that yet, he believes, but in an interview with the New Yorker, Dunbar said he feared it was so easy simply to end friendships on Facebook that eventually there may no longer be any need to learn to get along.
“In the sandpit of life, when somebody kicks sand in your face, you can’t get out of the sandpit. You have to deal with it, learn, compromise,” he said. “On the internet, you can pull the plug and walk away. There’s no forcing mechanism that makes us have to learn….”