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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’: Facebook takes over

    Facebook is an astounding entity, with 500 million active users who collectively spend 700 billion minutes surfing per month. That’s 1,330,928 years worth of time, every month.

    Given that we spend about twice the length of human existence each month clicking through this blue-and-white social labyrinth, it’s surprising we haven’t pondered more about what it’s doing to us. Has Facebook changed us? Or has it just magnified the oddities of our social world?

    I’ve become simultaneously more suspicious and more addicted to social media, specifically Facebook. And I’ve started wondering what impact this webpage has had on my brain, how I look at myself, how I look at others, how I interact with others. The potential impacts are scary.

    Kalle Lasn’s 1999 book “”Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge — And Why We Must”” discusses how corporations have managed to manipulate us in such a way that we don’t even recognize it.

    “”Living inside the postmodern spectacle has changed people,”” Lasn wrote in his book. “”Figuratively, most of us spend the majority of our time in some ethereal place created from fantasy and want.””  

    Isn’t that what Facebook is? It’s a corporation we all adhere to, contribute to, and it’s a place that thrives on fantasy and want. We’ve commodified the human experience, human social interaction. We essentially purchase ourselves, our friends and our relationships every time we log onto Facebook.

    “”The commercial mass media are rearranging our neurons, manipulating our emotions, making powerful new connections between deep immaterial needs and material products,”” Lasn said.

    Don’t be fooled — Facebook makes money primarily through all that advertising you see on the side of your page. You’re actively participating in a transaction where you give up your identity in order for a service. These ads target and manipulate your personally tailored version of “”cool,”” as Lasn would say, in order to influence the way you express yourself as a consumer.

    And the main draw, social interaction, is a drug so powerful that we can’t resist it. Those pesky ads are just an unfortunate byproduct of our addiction. Right?

    “”So virtual is the hypodermic needle that we don’t feel it. So gradually is the dosage increased that we’re not aware of the toxicity,”” Lasn wrote.

    University of Arizona students like Andrea Hartzell, 22, and Daneilla Trimble, 20, are aware that something dangerous is going on.  

    “”I definitely stigmatize it and try to avoid it as much as possible,”” Hartzell said. “”But when I get up in the morning, how I get ready, my process throughout the day, is structured by (Facebook).””

    That’s a powerful statement — evidence that Facebook has essentially replaced processes that used to be non-electronic. Besides the fact that we’re replacing this process with one rife with advertisements, we’re fixing our social world in a webpage, allowing Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to essentially express for us what has been a personal, private world for as long as we’ve been socially conscious.

    And we can’t escape it.

    “”Not having a Facebook, you’re possibly giving up this way to have certain opportunities,”” Trimble, a sociology and economics major, said.

    But at the same time, we’re losing something.

    “”People are stretching themselves so thin, with so many ‘friends’, I call them contacts, that they’re not spending time in important relationships in their life,”” Trimble said.  

    Molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry and molecular biophysics major Juhyung Sun acknowledges that Facebook has modified our social world.

    “”The two major changes that come to mind are volume and consolidation,”” Sun said.

    “”Not only do people share things through social media that they normally might not through conversation, but they can share it with every friend at once. Because with the rise of social media, people often refer to others’ Facebook pages or Twitter feeds,”” Sun said, instead of other more traditional forms of communication like the telephone or face-to-face conversation.  

    But for Sun, Facebook isn’t so negative; it keeps him informed.

    “”There’s nothing wrong with making it easier to keep your friends in the loop,”” Sun said.

    Ads aside, this is a valid point. And it’s something that has empowered individuals. Hartzell noted that protests and events showing support for others have become much easier and widespread since the advent of media like Facebook. This includes myriad events for showing and mobilizing support for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in light of the recent tragedy.

    It’s been a powerful tool for change — President Barack Obama used Facebook to keep his supporters informed and mobilized in the 2008 election; protests and causes are advocated on Facebook and reach the hearts and wallets of an unprecedented number of people. Not to mention the dozens of other social mass media applications out there, like Twitter, for example, where involvement in politics has changed the way people report and consume political news.

    It seems, at least right now, that Facebook is a necessary evil. We’ve expanded our power to network beyond what our wildest dreams would have conceived just a decade ago.

    “”There’s definitely a place for it,”” Hartzell said. “”People need to separate their personal life from it and use it as a tool.””

    Corporate America is all too ready to engage with such a tool. Goldman Sach’s recently announced its $500 million investment in Facebook, raising the media site’s value to an estimated $50 billion — that’s an astronomical leap for a site that used to be worth nothing.

    And with that kind of money from such prominent sources floating around, it’s highly probable that this website will only increase its attractiveness and market power, in any way it can. Let’s not be so foolish as to forget the fundamental strategies these corporations have used for so long, so effectively.

    Let’s hope we can do that. It’s a challenging and dangerous game that we’re all playing, and we’re definitely going to keep on playing it. But awareness is the first step.

    Perhaps by taking a chunk out of those 1,330,928 years per month and devoting that time to community service, reading a book, thinking about our lives, simply calling a loved one on the phone or — could it be? — seeing them in person, we can try to take back our social world and keep others from telling us how to live.

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