What an impressive social utility Mark Zuckerberg  has invented! When I see the huge number of people connected to this social network, I just wonder if there is anyone left on earth without a Facebook account. With over 500 million registered users and more than 300 million people visiting its site every single day, Facebook is the world’s largest social networking site and a global phenomenon. This is no surprise to anyone, I guess! In fact, Facebook came in an era where new communication technologies became the most used channels of communication among many people. It shifted the way people interact with each other. So what makes this revolutionary platform so different and so popular? Why do we like it?! I think that Facebook developers come up with thousands of new applications every day in the hope of satisfying every type of user. Thanks to its user-friendly interface with many interesting features, Facebookers can stay connected with their friends and make new connections in a very interactive manner.
Of course, I’m not here to offer Facebook a free advertisement or because I’m a big fan! In fact, there are many aspects I do not particularly like about this network. In this context, I would like to share with you the story behind my first connection to Facebook. First of all, I have never heard about such a social network called Facebook until two years ago, before I went to the U.S. to participate in an exchange program. My friends were already using it and were impressed by all the networking opportunities and functionalities they could enjoy thanks to this new platform. Yet, I categorically refused to create a Facebook account because I simply thought it was a waste of time and one of those dull social networks where people are overwhelmed with friend requests, filling surveys and invitations to chat. It was until I was preparing my exchange travel that I was urged by the Office of International Programs (OIP) of my university to create a personal Facebook account to stay in touch with the other exchange students and to be able to make new friends in the States. This is how I began to realize how useful and interesting Facebook was. Not only was I able to make new friends and stay connected with my exchange peers, but I also could receive many invitations to important events and could send messages, post comments and gather people interested in organizing interesting programs, parties and trips.
Okay, it doesn’t mean that Facebook is a sort of “online wonderland” free of pointless content and “what’s for?” applications. I agree that there are some “special” kinds of Facebookers who mainly—if not only—use Facebook to play nonsensical games 24 hours a day, or to update their status every single minute because they have “many” answers to the “what’s on your mind?” question, or sometimes just to surf from one friend’s photo album to another looking for gossip, or worse to post photos of their friends without their authorization.
And there are, of course, those “bystander” Facebookers who prefer to stay in the “hidden” mode, with no “added value” or any online concrete activity because they are too careful, or maybe too lazy, to update their status or write on their friends’ wall.
But there is this third category of Facebookers—the one I like the most—which uses Facebook as a knowledge-sharing medium to share topical news or to post interesting multimedia. To tell the truth, the number of things you can learn or at least become aware of thanks to Facebook is just amazing! These things range from world breaking news to unbelievable facts to funny jokes and remarkable videos, and even interesting answers to many confusing questions you may already have thought about. Every time I log in to my Facebook account and scroll over my friends’ News Feed, I discover something new in the form of a shared video or a song, a shared link to an interesting page, or an alarming or amazing fact I didn’t know before.
For instance, here is what a friend of mine posted last week on his Facebook status: “According to UN: The number of living people affected by the flooding in Pakistan over the past two weeks is 17 MILLION NOW—that's more than the combined total of the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, and the2010 Haiti earthquake...which makes you wonder why it's not receiving ...as much news coverage! Please do what you can to help. Copy and paste this as your status for humanity…”
Another friend shared an amazing video from TEDGlobal 2009 entitled “Michael Pritchard makes filthy water drinkable.” The demo illustrates how engineer Michael Pritchard did something about the lack of access to clean drinking water by inventing the portable Lifesaver filter, which can make the most revolting water drinkable in seconds. (If you’re interested, you can watch the video here:
Here is another one: Last week, a friend shared an interesting video about a sort of “flying bus” that China intends to invent in the future as a way to reduce traffic jams. According to the video, the Chinese bus allows cars to pass beneath it while it is moving on rails.
The point is, if you are already a Facebooker, why don’t you dedicate a portion of your “Facebook time” sharing interesting and conversational content (videos, photos, links to web pages, stories, etc) with your friends to raise their awareness toward pressing world issues and common interests? I am confident you will realize how rewarding this knowledge-sharing initiative can be both for you and for people who benefit from it. So, why don’t you give it a try? After that, you may rethink my question: “to which category of Facebookers do you belong?” I think you already got the answer…
Photo: © Dana Smillie / World Bank