FACEBOOK, the world’s most popular social networking site, is quickly evolving into a way of life for the majority of our young people who are known to keep a keen eye on technology and fashion trends.
If it is finding long lost friends, rekindling your love life, or simply wanting to take a peek at your friends and finding out what they are up to, Facebook allows you to do just that and a whole lot more.
The social networking site traces its roots back to Mark Zuckerburg, a former Harvard University student and the current CEO of the company.
Started on February 4 2004, the site has a huge international appeal with an estimated 175 million active users of its services.
A user needs a valid email address and can sign up at no cost and become a member of the site. The user can search for friends, send messages, comment on their friend’s activities, create and join virtual groups as well as add music, and upload photos and videos. The popularity of the site probably lies in its application where a user can upload an unlimited number of photos. This is in direct contrast to the limitations that other networking sites such as Flickr and MySpace impose on users.
Facebook’s growing popularity has seen it cutting across economic, cultural and political backgrounds and incorporating people from all walks of life. Politicians have found the new emerging media of the internet as an avenue to use in wooing the young vote. The new United States of America President, Barack Obama, is a testimony to the ability of politicians to reach young people through the internet. It stands to be seen whether the political parties here in Botswana will be able to do the same for this year’s elections, seeing that young people contribute the bulk of the voters.
Elsewhere across the continent, various politicians have their own fan pages on Facebook with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai keeping their supporters updated on their activities.
From Hollywood movie stars such as Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Jackie Chan to musicians and sporting icons such as Eve, Jennifer Hudson, Lewis Hamilton and Tiger Woods one can be ‘friends’ with their dream celebrities.
A user of Facebook, Amukela Moyo, a Zimbabwean student at Limkokwing University, said, “Facebook is so much better than e-mail, because I can do more than just writing a message to my friends, I can smile, kiss and wave at them and really get to be part of their lives even though we are miles apart.”
He added, “It makes our interaction more enjoyable!”
Facebook’s popularity has not been limited only to the young age group who are largely dependents, but older and mature users are seen to be leaning to the social networking site so as to remain connected to their families. Analysts have explained this phenomenon by pointing out that people generally want to feel like they belong and for many older people, Facebook is a family where they can exactly find that: a place to belong.
The culture of ‘Facebooking’, (using Facebook during work hours) has reportedly invaded the workplace as employees take their social networking lifestyles into the work environment. Fears from employers are that Facebook will result in a new wave of worker apathy and unproductivity.
Several online independent studies have revealed that at least three in ten employees each month visit the site while at work.
“I don’t spend much time on Facebook, I just check up for a few minutes on what my friends are up to for the day and then attend my work,” said Katlego Modise, an employee at a leading public relations firm in Gaborone.
However, privacy remains a central concern for the social networking site and it has, in the past, come under heavy fire for violation of an individual’s right to privacy. There are fears that the information about ones place of residence, contact details and marital status among other things can be used by others to stalk or even harm individuals.
In some countries such as Iran and Syria, Facebook is banned as the governments of those respective countries have been alarmed at the rapid emergence of anti-government movements being promoted on the site.
Regardless of the shortcomings of Facebook, it remains a popular networking site breaking the former perception among many people that the internet is only a tool for carrying out serious business.
Lighthearted, friendly and exciting is the new approach towards the internet, with Facebook aiming to help you connect and share with the people in your life.