Saturday, April 24, 2010

To Poke or to Superpoke

I have been interviewed twice the past few weeks regarding the use of Facebook in this current election season. The questions were about the usual pros and cons, dos and don’ts.

Ahh, the many wonderful , and awful things about this crazy thing called Facebook.

Created by college boys initially to provide a platform for their schoolmates at Harvard to get together online, share stories and keep in touch with each other, it has evolved into the world’s biggest online community with reportedly 400 million users worldwide. Yup, it has a much bigger population than the Philippines.

While the uninitiated might think that Facebook is just for young people, the truth is that those in the 30-something and above age group have more going for them in Facebook more than anybody else. As a Time article pointed out, we middle-agers have gone through high school (that’s one group of long lost friends one might find in this virtual community), college (another one), most have gone through several jobs each bringing with it a new set of friends, acquaintances – and experiences to chat about, blog about, post pictures and videos of, and that’s why this particular demographic counts as among the biggest groups on Facebook, and the most active! After all, it was in our generation that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs changed the world. We’re the ones who were first to tinker with really floppy floppy disks, got to move that thing called a mouse around, went gaga over Windows 2.0, and so on and so forth – we know how to work this thing. We know how to create an e-mail address so we can log in to Facebook. We know how to access our email address book to find our friends. We know how to upload pictures from our digital cameras (and even tweak those snapshots in Photoshop first before publishing them). We know how to chat, we know how to poke… and to superpoke.

And so we poked and superpoked and we have found long lost friends including that classmate from elementary school who has apparently forgiven me for relentlessly teasing her all throughout 5th grade. Or maybe she just forgot that I did that. While in the past communication with loved ones abroad meant waiting for the mailman to deliver that letter once or twice a week, or month, we are now in contact with them every single hour of every single day. We even know that they have been playing Word Twist or Bejewelled all night.

Now the cons. Above all else, spamming: unsolicited material being shoved down your throat (or hard drive). A contact can tag you in a provocative photo which means if anybody out of the 400 million members comment on it or even just “like” it (which one does with by simply clicking a button labeled, “like,” and you will be notified. If you haven’t turned off your email notification option, 100 comments and/or people “liking it” would mean 100 emails in your inbox. Say, a friend lost her cellphone and informs everyone in her contact list of her new number, each “got it,” “how did you lose it?,” “here’s mine,” “hey, long time no see” reply would find its way both in your Facebook and e-mail inboxes.

Then there are the viruses: a post appears that links to supposedly, say, “the funniest video ever,” you click on it to view it, and the next window asks you to “allow” the application to access your profile – the next thing you know, you’ve just unwittingly sent a racy video to all of your friends in your contacts list.

As for those politicians utilizing this for their campaigns? Well, the pros are countless – Comelec has no idea how to regulate material online, so it’s basically a free-for-all out there. While television exposure is limited to 60 minutes for local candidates, you can post a three-hour epic depicting your greatness online if you want. 120-minute limit on radio? Well, go ahead and post a full symphonic version of your campaign jingle if you want. But, while your supporters can rave about how great you are on your “wall,” adversaries can infiltrate your contacts list and start badmouthing you right in your own Facebook page. They do that a lot, mostly perpetrated by those who cowardly hide under pseudonyms.

This is what, my 3rd, 4th, nth article about Facebook? We just can’t get enough of it. But if there’s one thing that Facebook, and all those other so-called networking sites, has shown us is its apparent power to influence people. In Baguio, it helped cancel a government contract; it helped bring down a stupid concrete pine tree; and it might just help elect the city’s next leaders.

So enjoy it, hate it, do whatever you want with and in it. Just be responsible enough and know that this virtual world is also governed by the laws of the real universe: cause and effect, any action brings a reaction, you get the drift.

So, you can be helping make this world a better place. Or you can just be adding to the mess we’re all in.

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