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On the subject of Facebook by Dimafleck

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It is often said that “It’s not what you know, but who you know†that matters in our society. In the past, social power was determined by knowledge ; how educated are you?. In the electronic age, social standing was determined by information; what can you provide?. As “Web 2.0†emerges out of its infancy, we are witnessing yet another changing in what deems a person socially powerful; who can you connect? Networks have always been the way culture organized itself both socially and economically. However, without specific technologies, social networking is limited both in size and how quickly it can adapt to changes. Today, all social and economic processes rely on advanced communication technologies to coordinate their actions on local and global scales. These processes occur through multidimensional networks and with the aid of the internet, they know no boundaries. This rapid influx of communication technology, primarily the internet and online social networks, has greatly influenced the way society structures itself. According to influential thinker Manuel Castells, the structure of society has changed from a rigid vertical system of hierarchies, to a complex, constantly evolving system of networks. If society is indeed comprised of vast interconnected networks, what is the role of the individual? According to Castells, everyone within the network is a “node†who’s potential is only limited by his or her own contribution . It is the node’s ability to contribute that determines its fate within the network. As Castell’s writes

“Nodes increase their importance for the network by absorbing more information and processing it more efficiently. The relative importance of nodes does not stem from its specific features but from its ability to contribute valuable information to the networkâ€.

The more one participates, contributes and creates connections, the more importance one assumes. The less one contributes, the smaller his or her role with in society becomes. If a person does nothing to participate in the constant growth of their social network, the network will evolve and change without them. This why now, more than ever, it is incredibly important for one to stay connected with a broad and diverse social sphere. In this age of broad connectivity, this not only determines how popular you are as an individual, but also how much social power you yield.

In this technologically determined world, an individual is only as powerful as the tools that they implement. Therefore, if a person is to take full advantage of this networked society, they must implement an effective networking tool.

With its endless capability to connect individuals over time and space, the internet has proven to be a revolutionary platform for social networking. During the 1980s. the emergence of the personal computer and the establishment of community networks allowed the public to become familiar with technologies such as email, message boards and chat rooms. The first FREENET was started in Cleveland, Ohio to provide free access to a virtual community where individuals could share information and discuss day to day issues. Soon, highly specialized networks established themselves with very defined interests and exclusive membership rights .

However, a network is only as powerful as the nodes that lie within it. In the infinite world of cyberspace it is very easy to come across ineffective networks that are either not diverse enough, or do not contain enough potential connections. The key to online social networking is diversity over large social and geographical territory .

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has quickly become the eighteenth most visited site on the net, and its popularity continues to grow at an exponential rate .

Furthermore, Facebook is quickly establishing itself as a new and exciting means of communication. The website is no longer a place to post pictures and find classmates; its influence over society should be seen in the light as the telegraph, telephone and email. Facebook is a unique, powerful and pervasive form of communicating. The social capabilities of Facebook are vast, interconnected and using a term coined by Manuel Castells in his essay Network Logic, Facebook is truly a network that knows no boundaries. This is why Facebook has established itself as the most powerful social networking tool currently available to individuals ready to take advantage of this networked society. To implement Facebook to its fullest potential is to establish oneself as part of the new social elite.

What makes Facebook so powerful is it unites connected society much in the way that television did in its golden era; it falls under Carey’s ritual paradigm. It not only connects people, but it also reinforces strong cultural norms. Through Facebook, individuals as Harre’s makes note, assemble to perform rituals of knowing and recognition establishing themselves with claims and demanding social roles . Facebook acts as system in which a community as a whole can develop and create a knowledge of itself. Through this community, a person can establish oneself as a social leader by creating broad and diverse network connections. However, merely connecting people through networking is not the end of the journey to being part of the social elite. According to Piaget ,

“It is not until the human being can intergrate his thoughts and feelings about himself into a global perspective which extends beyond personal interest to include the whole of humankind that he will become an individual in the fullest sense of the wordâ€

By constantly participating and connecting using Facebook’s platform, a user communicates certain important cultural ideals as being important ones. The user not only publicly acknowledges that something is of importance; they also add importance to it by extending it to their vast social sphere. The more diverse the social sphere one possesses, the more influential their message becomes. The key to attaining social power is being heard . According to social commentator Keith Ferrazzi, “invisibility is a fate worse than failureâ€. If one is invisible within their social sphere, they are merely a node; a connector who the social elite use to connect ideas.

If communicating ideas over vast social networks is how one attains power in this networked society, what determines one idea more important than another? To unpack this question we look to an evolutionary model of ideas called “memeticsâ€. The term, was first coined by Richard Dawkins in the Book “The Selfish Geneâ€. Mementics involves the understanding that an idea can be seen as a gene in an evolutionary system; in this case, a “meme†refers simply to an idea .

Much like a gene, the biggest obstacle an idea must over come is natural selection . Some genes are able to survive, mature and prosper, while others are not as successful and have short life spans with little ability to replicate. The same is true for ideas. The strongest of ideas are responsible for innovations, culture, fads and social norms. What makes an one idea fitter than another is its combination with other ideas rather than its place as individual. Here we see how a vast social networks like Facebook are establishing an incredibly healthy “gene pool†of ideas. A successful gene replicates by reproduction, while successful ideas replicate through copying . The more nodes one possesses in his or her network, their possibility of idea copying increases. What makes an idea even more powerful on an evolutionary scale than a gene is it is not limited by physical constraints. For a gene to reproduce there must be a physical transaction. Ideas on the other hand are able to have several modes of reproduction through books, radio, television and most importantly, online social networks.

For famed sociologist Moscovici, the person’s leadership abilities are communicated through the channel of a “social representation†to another mind. He goes on to say that Individuals and groups “think autonomously, constantly producing and communicating representations . Online social networks such as Facebook allow an individual to force their own identity within the network and act as a starting ground for them to continue to grow from a simple node in the network to a social leader.

Facebook has not only empowered the individual and the spread of cultural ideals. It has also revolutionized the way companies make themselves marketable. Market research and advertising has quickly aligned itself with this new social network revolution. The front-end politics of Facebook has quickly established it as the most user friendly way to connect to those around you. Simultaneously, the back end politics of this social powerhouse has turned it into an infinite network of consumers who are sharing their every interest and daily activity.

Furthermore, these networks have also empowered the most effective advertising method of all; word of mouth. A product or political campaign that gains a buzz on the internet is hit with millions of hits within a matter of hours as people swarm their blogs, Facebooks and message boards. This is an era of consumer culture and those that have the most power are those that influence cultural trends. As we have seen through “mementicsâ€, what catapults a mere idea to a cultural phenomenon is connectivity; the ability to propagate over vast and diverse dimensions. As one acquires access to a variety of networks, they increase their ability to influence the world around them.

While Facebook and other online social networks are connecting people on both local and global scales, not everyone has access to the technology necessary to participate. However, everyone is ultimately influenced, shaped and controlled by those connected into this new social structure .

Why is Facebook such a social networking powerhouse? Why has it totally revolutionized the way people connect and communicate over such a short period time? To answer this question we yet again to networking theorist Manuel Castells who writes:

The performance of a given network depends on two fundamental attributes of the network: its connectedness, that is, its structural ability to facilitate noise free communication between its components; and its consistency, that is, the extent to which there is a sharing of interests between the network’s goal and the goal’s of its componentsâ€

On the issue of “noise†Castells is observing the difference between what is sent and what is received. Here we see why Facebook has soared above all other forms of online social networking. Its front-end politics, that is, everything that the user is presented with, is incredibly simple; hence, cancelling out the potential for noise. The message that is being transmitted is organized in a very simple and concise manner. For example, everything is categorized under bold headings. Furthermore, all the information that is required is available with immediate ease. This simple configuration also cancels out the second possibility of noise; human interpretation. Even if the message is technically noise free, the way it is interpreted by the receiver may still cause for some noise to occur. By having everyone conform to its simple template, the issue of interpreted noise is eliminated. More importantly, Facebook’s consistency is incredibly powerful. The goal of the Facebook user is simply to connect and share. The ultimate goal of the network itself is to exist within culture. The power of Facebook lies in its ability to share culture.

As of 2007, Facebook has become the twelfth most visited site on the internet. It contains a network of more than thirty million people with roughly four million people joining its pages every month. If a network is only as strong as its participants, clearly, Facebook is an incredibly strong, vast and diverse social network that is constantly evolving. In many respects, it is what James. W. Carey would describe as dialogic in nature. It has established itself as an incredibly important means of communication and has earned itself quite a bit of controversy.

According to James W. Carey, communication is “the basis of human fellowship; it produces the social bonds which tie men together and make associate life possible. He then goes on to say that “society is possible because of the binding forces of shared information circulating in an organic system. Facebook has quickly become that organic system, manifested in cyberspace. The privileged elite are no longer those are able to attain the most education but those who are able to connect the fastest and on the broadest scale. Ultimately, our society will soon find itself in a social structure where if one does not exist on a website like Facebook, one does not exist.

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I network just fine in my "real" life. I don't need a website to help people find me whom I was glad to have lost touch with in the first place.

How many invites have you received from people who you didn't or want to talk to 11 years ago?

I would say at least 10 to 20% in my case.

And I would say we are all far ahead of the curve, this site is the best network I have even been a part of............

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Which part?

From this site I have made and maintained some of the best friendships in my life. I can keep up on their whereabouts when they choose to enlighten us, we can message, we can discuss and we can love.

Plus this almost guarantess likemindedness whereas Facebook only guarantess online access.

Just a discussion point though, I do agree with what was pointed out in your post.

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It's part of the evolution of human and global consciousness... We are quickly growing towards a global mind now! "The Borg" doesn't seem like such science fiction now. We are already establishing our hive mind comprised of millions of 'nodes'. The internet - what seems to still be relatively new technology to us, is changing the world in a big way.

Prepare to be assimilated, resistance is futile!

Interesting times....

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I found this piece of writing almost as fascinating as I find FACEBOOK.

I think it's just about dead on.

The truest evidence of Facebook's dominance of is it's meteoric rise in the last year AND the fact that it has not even been slightly challenged by any competition thus far.

It's reaching the peak of its product life-cycle without any credible imitators.

It's almost not even a brand name or a product...it's practically a new medium.

It is to the internet what VHS (oh, and myspace was betamax) was to movies.

Think about it...


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Ill never go on it. I thought about it, but when a buddy told me its like running into all those ppl from 10+ yrs ago, and I didnt have andything to talk to them about then, so why would i now?

plus another buddy on here was having big probs with them. seems like too much of a headache really. sure it has some benefits but so does doing yoga, and you dont see me doing that shit do ya?

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