This was originally published in the Imperial Felix Paper
December 23, 2006 at 20:41, “Ben has joined Facebook”. It was a simple page, no friends, no photos and a fake birth date to get around the age restrictions. If you had of told me then that this, and other social networking sites, would be the cornerstone of social interaction for our generation I happily admit I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But, whilst this development may be surprising I believe that it has been positive.
There have been many examples of where social networking has brought happiness to lives and in some cases saved them! Phillip Pain is a student at Southampton University who, whilst on a year out in Mexico, fell from the 7th floor of a hotel. Phillip needed several life saving operations however, the hospital did not have enough O negative blood for the operations to do ahead. His friends back in the UK made Facebook groups calling for people to help out. After 24 hours thousands of people had joined to spread the word. Then amazingly, people started turning up at the hospital to offer their blood and eventually there was enough for the operations.
Whilst social networking may not have such a drastic effect on the lives of most of us, its impact is undeniable. Each service has adapted to fill a niche, aiding and assisting normal forms of social interaction. LinkedIn is great for business, MySpace/last.fm for music, twitter for journalism with Facebook a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ patriarchal figure. Each of these enhances how we interact each other in different ways, there are bands I wouldn’t have heard of if not for last.fm, news stories I wouldn’t have heard if not for twitter and events I wouldn’t have attended if not for Facebook.
‘The Facebook generation’ we have been called, compulsive tweeters, a mass of faceless online youths never leaving their computers. Whilst like anything there are those who take social networking too far, it is a fantastic tool if used correctly. It can connect you to anyone anywhere in the world, reunite lost friends and help to maintain long distance friendships that might otherwise disintegrate.
The true global potential of the medium is perfectly demonstrated by the recent story of Ashley Kerekes (aka @theashes), a 20 something American nanny and twitter user. She woke up one day to find that a large number of people had sent her messages on twitter regarding the ashes tour. Having no idea about cricket she responded to the people who were talking to here, initially with annoyance but this then developed into full conversations. Soon she had thousands of followers and through before the power of social networking was flown out to Australia to watch the ashes for real.
The social media revolution has without a doubt changed the way we interact with each other and the wider world. It has provided a new easy way to communicate and for those who want it, a channel through which your voice has the potential to be heard by millions.