In our increasingly diet-conscious lifestyles, it seems fitting that our online indulgences now have watered-down options as well. Last week, Facebook quietly introduced Facebook Lite, a simpler version of the site that has permeated our everyday existences. Lite maintains the "necessities," like a home page and wall, but leaves accessories like chat and applications (quizzes!) behind. By hiding distracting elements, Lite provides a Twitter-esque live feed on your friends' every move. It's presumably bringing us back to the stated purpose of Facebook - a site that "helps you connect and share with the people in your life."
Talk about a vague statement. When you really sit down and think about it, choosing who to connect with and what to share is quite a big decision. And yet, we manage to accomplish this task with the mindless click of a button.
This summer, Facebook accounts passed 250 million. Each day, 120 million users access the site. In February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said that should Facebook be a country, it would be the sixth most populous. Facebook is a living, breathing, global community. We post news articles we find interesting. We upload photographs so trite that others find them novel. We have serious conversations and light-hearted gabs. And now, Facebook Lite will provide an even simpler design for us to do so.
But despite all its glories, Facebook fails on one account: It distorts our perceptions of our own relationships and those of others. It simply can't capture the intricacies and layers of different levels of interactions. Wharton junior Ariana Ireland registered for a Facebook account when she entered college. "Then I friended a lot of [Penn] people who I had never met. Now I only friend people who I've met," she commented. Like most Facebook users, Ireland doesn't delete contacts and doesn't differentiate between real-life friends and those who are simply Facebook "friends" when on the site.
When I imagine a networking event, I imagine a whole bunch of strangers with specific interests and fortes coming together. Cute anecdotes and business cards are exchanged, and at the end of the event, attendees walk out having met a couple people with whom they would like to build friendships, some with whom they might like to work and several whom they would not care to see again.
But today, we go home and "friend" them all. With the simple click of a button, an acquaintance (read: stranger) is suddenly a friend, enjoying a photo album from our family reunion. Though we have multiple classifications for social partners, there is no formula for categorizing on Facebook, which considers them all as a single entity. If a random person walking down the street only has to wave hello or shake my hand to be my "friend," then who are the strangers that my parents have taught me to avoid?
Sure, we don't want to close the door on potential relationships, but we also don't want to leave the door wide open. We uninhibitedly share personal status updates, and in return, any of our contacts can read and comment. Writing on someone's wall suddenly boosts the "relationship" and is even shown to increase jealousy in certain onlookers. Driven by our need to be liked and to enhance our network, we lose sight of what is genuine friendship in the true meaning of the word, and what is a click-of-a-button Facebook friendship.
Facebook had taken some steps toward personalizing the site - for instance, a user can create Friend Lists and appear invisible to certain groups of friends on Facebook chat. But with Lite, your life becomes an informational free-for-all for any and all of your "friends." It feels like we're going backwards.
Today when I signed on to my normal Facebook page, I was welcomed by lists and instant messages. But they were ones that I care about. My Lite home page is a stream of consciousness from everyone I have ever encountered, a gentle reminder that just because it's Lite doesn't mean it's the healthier option.
Rohini Venkatraman is a College senior from San Jose, Calif. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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