The Fenomenon of Facebook

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					Juliet McGuire                                             Journalism Practice (Articles)
14420724                 Lifestyle excerpt in the Sunday Times              1 June 2007

             Get Your Face Out of MySpace
The phenomenon of Facebook has hit South Africa in a big way. It‟s
what many have termed the new MySpace. Juliet McGuire goes in
search of what makes Facebook so fashionable. She speaks to a
recording company employee, a student and even a doctor.

In almost every computer room on almost every university campus and office in South
Africa people are talking about Facebook, one of the largest social networks on the
internet. It‟s becoming a whole new language with sayings such as, “I Facebooked you,”
meaning they sent you a message or wrote on your „wall‟. Those aged between 14 and 30
cannot escape this phenomenon.

Originally called thefacebook, Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, a former-
Harvard student, in 2004. It was started as a hobby and in a letter he posted on Facebook
he wrote, “When I made Facebook my goal was to help people understand what was
going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people
could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they
shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we‟ve seen is because of these
basic principles.”

Facebook‟s first $500 000 in funding came from Peter Thiel, founder and former CEO of
Paypal, an eBay Company which enables any individual or business with an email
address to send and receive payments online. He is a former columnist for the Wall Street
Journal and a graduate of Stanford University. At a conference in 2004 Thiel remarked,
“I think the only way that the world can become unified in some sense is through
technology. Technology is driving us towards a single, seamless humanity.”
Juliet McGuire                                               Journalism Practice (Articles)
14420724                   Lifestyle excerpt in the Sunday Times              1 June 2007

Public Relations Officer at Electric and Musical Industries (EMI) in Cape Town, Ms.
Tessa Barnes, said that Facebook has been a great tool for her. “Facebook makes the
world even smaller. Connecting with friends and reconnecting with old friends is one of
the reasons I enjoy Facebook. Myspace started the trend, but Facebook is taking it to a
whole new level,” she said. MySpace, another social network website, was founded in
2003 by Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe. For Tessa, MySpace is more useful as it
appeals to more musicians, “This site is for people who want to communicate their work
to millions of people. That is how artists like Lily Allen were discovered,” she said. But
for personal use, Tessa says Facebook is much more appealing, Tessa added, “It‟s much
more user-friendly and it‟s fast and efficient.”

But for Tessa there is a downside to this new technology, “The only thing about these
technological advances is that we are losing the human factor. We are not physically
connecting with people anymore, whether it is speaking on the phone or writing letters,”
she said. The conveniences presented to us in modern day life are taking the soul and life
out of real human relationships.

Someone who would relate to this is a young doctor from Cape Town, Dr. Anthony
Train. He says that in a profession like his, Facebook is the only way to stay in touch with
all his friends. “I am busy all day so to take a quick five minute break to reach everybody
is rather convenient, although I do miss the human element, he said.”

For Claire Blomkamp, a student at the University of Sydney, Facebook has become “like
a new love affair”. “You constantly have to check to see if your loved one (Facebook)
has left you a message,” she said. Claire said the only scary thing about Facebook is the
fact that you post things in there that everybody can see. This is an issue that many
people have and one that has been the hot topic of many articles.
Juliet McGuire                                               Journalism Practice (Articles)
14420724                   Lifestyle excerpt in the Sunday Times              1 June 2007

Facebook is a marketer‟s dream. Their privacy policy states that it may use information
in your profile without identifying you as an individual to third parties. It also says, “Our
service providers may have access to your personal information for use for a limited time
in connection with business activities.” A few articles have even gone so far in
suggesting that Facebook is indirectly connected to the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA). Facebook spokespeople have denied any data mining is being done for the CIA or
any other group.

Tessa says that this issue has been on her mind, especially as she works for a very well-
known company and doesn‟t want to get into any sort of legal battles. But what she does
in her personal life doesn‟t “or shouldn‟t” affect her professional life. “I have heard of
people getting fired or suspended due to information they have put on Facebook about
their company, but this doesn‟t really concern me as I don‟t use Facebook as a way to
criticise my company. If I have anything bad to say I‟d rather just tell a friend in person
just in case,” she said.

No matter what the controversy, there is no denying that Facebook has indeed become a
phenomenon. As of February this year it had the largest number of registered users
among college-focused sites with over 19 million members worldwide. It is the number
one site for photographs with over 6 million uploaded daily and it is the sixth most visited
site in the United States of America.

It has even come in handy with regard to law enforcement. A former St. Bonaventure
University student was charged in a hit-and-run incident that killed a student from the
University of Connecticut after police linked him to the victim using Facebook. Clearly
Facebook has uses and implications that stretch far beyond just social networking.

But it‟s the social networking that attracts so many users. With the click of a mouse one
can see people‟s photographs, see where they are living, what functions they are
attending, who they are friends with, how they are feeling and even who they are dating.
Juliet McGuire                                              Journalism Practice (Articles)
14420724                  Lifestyle excerpt in the Sunday Times              1 June 2007

It might be risky to have all this personal information out there for everybody to see. But
since when has anything actually been private on the internet anyway?

                                 “Facebook has become
                                 like a new love affair.”

Word count: 1013
Lifestyle excerpt in the Sunday Times

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