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July 20, 2019

Faces on Facebook

At one time, the radio and the transistor were devices that entertained us and kept us in touch with the outside world. Then, the TV was initially introduced in developed countries during the 1940s and captivated people with not only sound but also sight. Now, it is joined by the Internet that not only informs, and entertains, but also allows us to keep connected with whoever we wish to be connected to, wherever they may be. The emergence of Facebook on the Internet in 2004, and later, the widespread use of mobile phones, have greatly assisted in keeping us connected not only with the people we know – our relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, but also in making new friends from among the vast unknown, wherever we are, and wherever they are. Whenever we access Facebook, new faces keep popping up daily on the screen requesting to be friends. This is because anyone who is at least 13 years and has a valid e-mail address can become a registered user. To give an idea of the number of users, there were 864 million daily active users on average for September 2014 according to Wikipedia.
Why is Facebook so popular with people of all ages including those over 65?  Its use is so widespread, because as explained by Wikipedia, it can be used to exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles. Facebook has come to serve as an alternative media for people of all walks of life, to inform and to be informed about such minor matters as where you are at the moment to major events in the country.
Facebook has been created as a social media platform and true to its aim, it connects people and maintains friendships, and in some cases, it reconnects old friends. Since, apart from posting messages, one can also upload photographs and videos, it allows people to share one’s memories, thoughts, and feelings as well as one’s current activities.  It also permits messages to be posted to specific persons.  In addition, it enables Facebook users to share what they have come across in life and books, and through other media and websites, those that are entertaining, comical, unique, inspiring, instructional, sad, disturbing, etc. For those who enjoy playing games, it can also be used to play games with their cyberpals. Moreover, it is utilized to educate others regarding politics, health, morals, etc and it is used for positive actions, such as, to raise social awareness and responsibility, to give advice to those facing problems, to raise funds for the needy, to provide comfort and sympathy for those in distress, and to congratulate those who have achieved success. Furthermore, Facebook may also be used indirectly to promote oneself, such as, to boast about one’s triumphs, or to flaunt one’s latest acquisitions of persons and things.  Besides, its popularity is exploited for commercial purposes, such as, to promote certain products, or to sell certain items.
In this Age of Globalization, people say that the world has shrunk to become a village. This may be true from technological, knowledge sharing, commercial, and travel perspectives. But from a social perspective, many people have become less connected to their roots. Probably due to increasing urbanization, industrialization and migration in search of better education and job opportunities, many people now live far away from their families and peers, and some are slowly drifting away from their relatives and old friends. For the increasing number of people who have the financial means to own a cell phone and use the Internet, faces on Facebook, both old friends in the outside world, and new friends made on Facebook, and other similar social platforms, have become their cyberfriends to share their woes, wants, and wonderments and fill the social vacuum. The cyberfriends are close enough to be reached within seconds, but far enough to maintain privacy. This probably suits cyber-relationships, as it is difficult to harmonize one’s free time with another person’s free time in the extremely busy real world. On the other hand, the anonymous nature of some of the interactions may serve as a licence for people who do not agree with other persons to use hate speech, hurl verbal abuse, express bias opinions and make false accusations, which can sometimes be more painful than physical abuse. Similarly, not everyone who sees photographs of people posing in front of exciting places, lounging in luxurious hotels, and enjoying exotic cuisine, finds them delightful, like the persons concerned. In fact, one Internet article says that in some people, it causes Facebook envy and negative effects of loss of self-esteem and dissatisfaction with their own lives, after seeing photographs of people travelling, or enjoying family happiness, on Facebook. So, people should be prepared for the barrage of negative comments and sarcastic reviews, and not just ‘likes’, when they boldly grace the cell phone screen like film or pop stars.
Nevertheless, few will disagree that apart from being useful in many ways, Facebook relieves us of boredom, and helps to kill time on slow moving buses, at boring meetings and during lonely hours. So, until another alluring social platform emerges to entertain us, do go on spending your time “rubbing the hand phone” as our young Myanmar people say and making more friends, but don’t let it become an obsession and affect your other obligations and your sleep.

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