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Often, I hear my parents’ and grandparents’ generations complaining about how they have lost all hope for my generation.
They complain about our addiction to technology. While texting and video games have attracted their share of criticism, the vast majority seems to be directed at that great hub of interconnectivity: Facebook.
Contrary to the wisdom of the technophobes, Facebook is not evil, nor useless, nor a waste of time. It is nothing less than the greatest revolution in communication technology that the world has ever seen.
It is to the Internet what the Internet was to computers. Mark Zuckerberg is no less of a hero — or a world changer — than Samuel Morse or Alexander Graham Bell.
I admit, Facebook can be misused. There are those people that post status updates about the most mundane aspects of their lives; those that send friend requests to total strangers; those that poke you and message you far too frequently and some that post mean comments on others’ walls.
Then there are the users that have no life outside of Facebook and dedicate their lives to being annoying.
However, despite what some may think, these people are not really that common. Most users only write posts that have some sort of value, whether for entertainment, inspirational or informational.
The ease with which Facebook pests can annoy many people almost instantly, forms the basis of most external criticism.
However, the main problem is the content of these posts and the way in which Facebook’s capabilities are being used. When used in more constructive ways, these same capabilities can, and already have, changed communication forever.
By simply typing into a box and clicking “submit,” a user can instantly send a message to all of their Facebook friends, similar to Twitter. However, unlike Twitter, these friends can then respond to the initial post. These comments can then be viewed by anyone who has permission to view the page.
This is incredibly useful for disseminating information to a large group of people and receiving responses from each of them.
Take, for example, a recent biology assignment. We were assigned to conduct a survey to determine whether or not our friends exhibit certain physiological traits and how these traits are inherited.
We had to determine if they exhibited the trait, and if their parents did. In theory, I could have walked the hallways with a pencil and notepad, asking people the necessary questions.
However, while they would have known the answers for themselves, they would not necessarily have known the answers for their parents. Instead of this more conventional method, I posted a request on Facebook.
Within two days, I had collected enough data to turn in the assignment. Plus, unlike a group text, the responses are visible to anyone who can view my page. So, the data is available to my friends.
In addition to the posting function, Facebook also allows people to plan and coordinate events. A user can create an event and send invitations to people’s home pages. These people can then go to the page for the event and place themselves in one of three categories: “Going,” “Maybe” and “Not Going.” In this way, invitees can instantly RSVP, so the host knows almost instantly who will be attending.
Also, if the guests have questions, rather than contacting the host, they can ask the question in the comment section, where the host can answer it.
Thus, the question and answer are available to all the other guests, so the host does not need to receive 20 emails all asking the same question, or send out another mass email or text clarifying.
Los Alamos Youth Leadership took advantage of this capability when it planned its Central Avenue Grill dances.
I freely admit that Facebook can be used for less-than-constructive purposes. Obnoxious people can annoy hundreds of people with minimal effort.
Protected behind a blue-and-white screen, it is easy to forget that there are actual people on the other end. Arguments in comment sections can get incredibly nasty.
Like any other tool, Facebook can be used for good or evil. If abused, it allows people to extend their reach across the whole world. If used properly however, it can help people communicate, share information and organize events, among innumerable other uses.
It truly is the greatest revolution in the history of communication technology since the Internet itself.