Facebook Thoughts

In reply to Rob’s comments about Facebook earlier this week (Online Suicide, Jan 5), I think Facebook should relax about people wishing to remove specific friends. It would be misguided to think that they can control people who are on Facebook. The whole point of social networking is that it should be open and accessible. Facebook is essentially a platform and it should enable its community to network and develop how it wants to, in my view.

I can imagine that investors are jumping up and down with fear at the prospect of applications tempting people away from Facebook as the market is highly competitive. It is easy to move from one social network to the other.

Take Google: despite its supremacy, rivals are only a click away. It’s not that much effort to move to another online service.

There is plenty of chat in the media (normally traditional) about the decline of social media or people using it less often. I think this is largely motivated by people who fear the rise of social networking, they are outside of the culture and feel threatened by it. But there is no way that social networking is going to go; it is simply too embedded within our culture, our phones, our TVs, our blackberries, web sites, our bookmarks etc etc.

Also within certain groups, social networking is indispensable. For teenagers Facebook is an essential part of life. It provides freedom from the stultifying conformist tendencies of parents and teachers and is a chance to enjoy a taste of freedom and organise time with friends and reach out to people from different continents.

There are also house bound people who can enjoy great comfort through social networking and who can express themselves creatively in ways which are not possible in their jobs or daily lives. Just look at how social networking brings together old friends and families. Social networking meets and fulfils deep human needs: a need to belong; express yourself and be recognised.

Despite the fact that giants like Facebook and Twitter have emerged quickly in recent years from nowhere there is no guarantee they are permanent residents of this new realm. They could go but they will, I imagine, only be replaced by other services performing similar roles.

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