Alexandra Friedman | The power of the social network


Friedom of Speech | One status update has the potential to change the world


31773_alexonlineo

Alexandra Friedman
Friedom of Speech

Photo by Alexandra Friedman


I saw “The Social Network” with my mom right after it came out in 2010. I walked out of the theatre raving about how interesting and insightful the movie had been, while my mom, admittedly not a Facebook user, insisted that she “didn’t really get what the big deal was.”

My dad, similarly, has made dozens of pointed comments about the amount of time my generation spends on Facebook. Like watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” (another one of my guilty pleasures), my dad sees Facebook as nothing more than a waste of time.

And he’s right. Sometimes, Facebook is a waste of time. Spending hours scrolling through your newsfeed, mindlessly liking statuses or changing your profile picture is not the most prudent use of our time as college students.

As I have reminded my parents on many occasions, however, I am constantly amazed by the good that can be found on Facebook. Facebook is a powerful tool, giving us a platform to share just about anything with just about anyone. Through Facebook, I have discovered insightful news articles that have profoundly impacted the way I think. I have watched inspiring videos that remind me to be thankful for all I have been afforded in life. I have vicariously taken in others’ study abroad experiences by looking through my friends’ photos. I have connected and reconnected with friends and family around the world.

Facebook was the mechanism by which much of the Arab Spring was made possible, allowing people to organize, plan and broadcast to entire populations. On June 8, 2010, Wael Ghonim, a resident of Dubai, found a startling and upsetting picture on Facebook of Khaled Mohamed Said, a 28-year-old from Alexandria who had been beaten to death by Egyptian police. His bloodied and disfigured face was posted on Facebook for the world to see and stood as a symbol of the revolution.

Without hesitation, Ghonim created a Facebook page in honor of Said, calling it “Kullena Khaled Said” — “We Are All Khaled Said.”

It is on Facebook that Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton publishes his portraits, making New York City — and the entire world — feel a little bit smaller and human beings a little bit more relatable.

On my newsfeed, I have discovered articles, videos, Buzzfeed lists and pictures that have made me laugh, cry, empathize and understand. I am able to express sympathy when a friend on the other side of the country has lost a loved one and joy when a family member has gotten engaged. I’ll never forget a friend’s birthday again. I’ll see photos of my cousin’s newborn twins months before I get to see them in person.

No matter your stance on Facebook, its impact is undeniable. In celebration of Facebook’s 10th anniversary this year, USA Today quipped that the year was not 2014, but actually “10 A.F. – After Facebook.” With over a billion users throughout the world, Facebook has changed the trajectory of technology use in our everyday lives — forever.

According to a study recently published by Princeton University, Facebook is likely to lose 80 percent of its users by 2017. As evidence of its future demise, researchers point to MySpace, a fad which many of us — myself included — took part in back in the earlier years of the new millennium. The study, which makes the analogy of a social network spreading like a disease then quickly dying out, found that Facebook is “just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase.”

Personally, I hope they’re wrong.

I’m not advocating excessive use of Facebook. When overused, Facebook is undoubtedly a detriment to our lives. When used thoughtfully, however, it can be a force of change. Facebook can make 6,000 miles seem close. Facebook can be the platform on which a political protest is organized and publicized. And Facebook can make us think — really think — about the world around us.

Alexandra Friedman is a College junior from Atlanta, Ga., studying history. Email her at alfrie@sas.upenn.edu or follow her @callme_alfrie.

Discussion

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.