Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Facebooked I: A Convenient Friendship

Viral surges; sacked employees; youth brain rot; broken homes and murder. Sounds like the Facebook we all know? If not, then read on.

Facebook: Friend or Foe

Last year a UK man was convicted of the murder of his wife when she apparently changed her online Facebook profile to "single" following a marital separation. He was sentenced, quite appropriately for 14 years in prison.

More recently, the founders of Facebook have defended its openess and have said that they won't place restrictions on the social networking site, even if it means threat from those ever-present virus attacks.

Many of us will know that Facebook is a social site whereby friends and acquaintances can network, share ideas, comments and discuss matters of interest. Friendships can be can be kept alive, made or even ended according to interest, mood and opportunity. Think to the role that hujras, cafés and tea-rooms play.

Facebook, like friendships is not without codes. Commonality, shared interest and exchange are central to many friendships. Often we develop an agreed language and agreed boundaries, something that is uniquely special, even confidential amongst friends. Though perhaps this last aspect is where Facebook differs from general friendships.

Commonality, shared interest, yes, but confidentiality? OK, you can set security restrictions to keep out onlookers, but Facebook thrives on being able to browse other's contacts so that users can increase their own networks of contacts. We get to see other's conversations, so can build up an understanding before we get to invite new friends to our networks.

Let down by a friend called Facebook

And boundaries, what happens when they are crossed? Just recently this was tested when an Essex teenager was sacked for comments about her work that were read by her colleagues on Facebook (she called her job "boring"). I confess, that like many, I've often described aspects of my work, as much worse than boring in private. I wonder, would I be able to do this on Facebook? After all, don't I share my thoughts with my friends, and isn't Facebook all about friendship?


  1. Well, I think it is quite different sharing your thoughts with friend(s) about a specific issue in a specific moment, and publish your thoughts in Facebook, that will remain there, open to everyone and forever. One could say: if you want to share something with a particular person, you can write to her privately. Ok, so why using Facebook? Write an email! Conversely, if you write your thoughts on your public wall, to what extent are these thoughts spontaneous and a real expression of yourself?
    I cannot express myself with freedom when I write in Facebook. I cannot help bearing in mind that people will read what I'm reading.
    Thus, I agree with you: I am not able to share my thoughts in Facebook.

  2. Exactly - what happened to private thoughts - does our every thought and action need to be made public? I would like to think not.


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