The Growth of Facebook

Posted on Thursday 11 October 2007

So I was trying to decide today, whether I had writers block, or if I was just feeling indifferent to everything. Maybe it’s a hangover from yesterdays provincial election. Rolling Eyes

So I dabbled at all sorts of things. One of those was to drop into Facebook to see if there was anything new. I’ve had a Facebook account for a while now, and it’s really interesting to see how it has changed already.

When I first started with Facebook, I told someone in my age group (remember I’m retired) that I had an account and they gave me the oddest look. As far as they were concerned Facebook was for “kids” (meaning anyone in their 20’s or younger).

To be truthful, my initial reason to get on Facebook was to be able to see my daughters pictures of my grandkids. That is all. Having been raised that you don’t peek in people diaries (thanks to an older sisters “advice” – with strong support from mom & dad). I wasn’t even thinking of doing anything else.

To get access to things like pictures that someone posts, you have to request that you become a “friend”. So after getting my account I asked my daughter to accept my request and she did. I had access to her pictures of her boys and I was happy. Suffice to say, that isn’t where it’s ended…

Once you become a “friend” of one person, every other “friend” that they have is notified. This led to my other daughter asking to become a friend of mine (like how could I refuse!) and before you knew it their “friends” who knew me were requesting access to me and so on and so on…

When you first log into Facebook you are given an update on each of your friends activities on their Facebook account. So my adversity to reading what they were up to, quickly evaporated (hey they invited me!) and I began to notice activities that they were involved in. They belonged to groups and networks and they found long lost friends thanks to a search tool which Facebook provides.

Curiosity seems to come naturally to people who love technology and I am no exception. So I started taking a closer look at some of the groups and networks which were of interest to me. There were several for my home town and one for my high-school and even one for my elementary school!

What I quickly noticed, however, was that my friends assumptions were beginning to be proven correct… Practically every group that I checked out and/or joined was made up of people in their teens or younger. High-school graduates were from 2002 or 1995 and of course a whole bunch of them were still in school! Posting that I graduated high-school in 1969 was just a little surreal.

I also tried out the Facebook search engine, looking for friends and classmates of my generation but found no-one. I did manage to find some of my young nieces and nephews, whom I hardly ever see any more and that was great! But, I was beginning to think that my friend was right and that Facebook really was a “kids” playground…

Today things have changed somewhat. I now have a few friends who are closer to my age, I guess I was just ahead of the curve again. I have a cousin, who lives about 700km away, with whom I now play Scrabble (or to be more accurate Scrabulous) on Facebook. I also now have several local friends who who chat with me from time to time on Facebook.

Then, last night, while we were watching the election returns on television one of the stations – A-Channel Ottawa – announced that you could join their Facebook Group and discuss the election and/or results. A quick check shows that this one group has over 48 discussion topics and 313 wall postings. A quick search shows that it isn’t alone other stations are starting up their group/network sites too. Not a lot – but there are some.

Looking back, I remember when Usenet was the only means of global discourse and social interaction on the Internet. It too was originally adopted by the young and only those who were lucky enough to have access from a university terminal could participate.

Shortly after that came the BBS – Bulletin Board Service, where locally those with a computer and a modem could connect and exchange ideas, followed more quickly by commercial enterprises such as Compuserve and its many copycats. Eventually, thanks to the Internet they all blended together creating a truly global community. Where everyone could share their thoughts, ideals and ideas.

But something happened, Tim Berners-Lee along with Robert Cailliau developed a new concept for the Internet called a World Wide Web and it exploded. Everyone could create their own site, put forward their own idea and ideals and somewhere within all the bits and bytes and websites and blogs the accessible global discourse got lost…

Sure there were websites with great conversations talking about specific topics and yes AOL was out there for those who had an account and Usenet is still there for those who know of it or can find it. But it the great discourse was shattered, there was no longer a single source where one could easily start or find and follow a conversation on anything that anyone could contribute, negate or retort. That is, I think, until now.

Facebook isn’t alone, there are others, but I think it has what it needs to become the next great center of global dialog. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens over the next few years…

End Article

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