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News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students

Mark Zuckerberg: the man with 150 million friends

I used to be a hater. I was one of those people who mocked and rejected Facebook. I didn’t want…

By Alexis Stoymenoff , in Face Value: Social networking and our generation , on January 12, 2009

I used to be a hater.

I was one of those people who mocked and rejected Facebook. I didn’t want to be added to the growing population of users chained to their computers to “creep” on other people they were “friends” with, sucking all the gossip they could out of this new, bizarre, and viciously addictive medium.

I had studied media and communications and mused upon the possible advantages and disadvantages of such an online network. Maybe it was the pretentious media student in me struggling to resist the mainstream. Maybe I thought I was too cool for Facebook.

In any case, I broke. Unlike the stronger “haters”, I finally caved and signed up for an account.

I like to tell people I did it because I was working at an office for the summer. I had a computer in my cubicle and very little interest in my job, so Facebook was a welcome distraction. I like to say I signed up because “I had nothing better to do”.

However, I think the real reason had something to do with feeling left out. My friends were talking about things that I hadn’t seen or experienced, and many of those things involved Facebook. I was curious.

There were events being created online, and I wasn’t invited because I didn’t have a Facebook account. There were photos being posted from parties and trips, and I couldn’t log on to see them. I was the only one still forgetting my friends’ birthdays, because everyone else was getting daily reminders online.

As much as I hate to admit it, I wanted to “creep”. I wanted to learn things about people without talking to them. I wanted to look at their photos, see what they were doing and secretly judge them. The very things that made me sneer at the idea of social networking turned out to be the qualities that drew me in.

This was about three years ago. By now, all but two of my originally anti-Facebook friends have regularly updated accounts. We have all joined the throng, and I assume most people did so for similar reasons to my own. Out of the 150 million users Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg now flaunts, I’d say there’s a good percentage who at one point claimed they would never get an account. It’s like they say – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

It seems as though you cannot be a functioning member of the “Millennial” generation without succumbing to the fascinating appeal of websites like Facebook and MySpace. Online social networking has changed how our generation thinks about communication. It has become an almost integral part of everyday life for students and young adults.

Apart from its necessity in order to be included in groups and event planning, Facebook taps into both an innate curiosity we have about other people as well as a sense of exhibitionism that many try to deny. Motivations aside, the impact of this phenomenon is huge, and I don’t think we should take it for granted.