To say Facebook is a phenomenon would be an understatement. Approximately, 1 in every 13 people on Earth is a Facebook user. In addition, 57% of people talk to people more online than they do in real life.
So, is our obsession with Facebook a good or bad thing for society? Sociologists will say there isn’t a clear cut answer to this question, but they are looking into what Facebook says about our society in general.
In the movie, “The Social Network”, Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and begins working on a new idea. Six years later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history. Though Facebook users may not necessarily be wealthy, they are reaping the rewards of instant gratification, friendship, and in some cases. Immediate gratification. Consider this: Facebook has more than 500 million active users. 50% of the users log on to Facebook in any given day. What does that say about who we are?
Professor Jeffrey Nash has been looking into this question. He is the department chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at UALR.
“American social networks are becoming more fragmented. People are reaching out less to strangers and more cocooning — the cocooning effect,” said Professor Nash. “On the other hand, maybe we have over estimated how much that is going on, and there’s some research that shows that may not be the case, and Facebook and other internet mediated communications are actually compensating for that. So if they are compensating for the fact that we are spending more time in our cars, and we go 30 miles each way, and we don’t have time to connect the way we did before, and one way of looking at what’s happening is that internet mediated communication is pulling us together.”
Many will say that’s an optimistic view of the Facebook effect — that our old ways of communication are being supplemented by new ways. Professor Nash says there is some truth to that, but he calls it normal.
“Anytime a technology drives us to change what we’re doing in a very dramatic way, like changing from horse and cart to automobile, there’s always a period of time in which there’s a lag between the practices and the rules for how you are to practice it,” said Nash.
A perfect example of that was the Midland School Board Vice President, Clint McCance who posted messages on his Facebook profile, suggesting gays should kill themselves. McCance later resigned. Lucky for us, Professor Nash says we will eventually find our way of navigating Facebook, with some type of etiquette, and rule book.