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Letter #109: ‘The Social Network’

January 17, 2011

Dear social networking,

I’m reminded of my second favorite scene from the movie, ‘Elf.’ Buddy walks into the coffee shop and shouts, “Congratulations! You’ve done it! World’s best cup of coffee.” Well today, I salute you. Congratulations! You’ve done it! You’ve taken over the world. Last night, the Golden Globe was given to your greatest advocate, ‘The Social Network.’ I watched this movie the night before in hands down the best place to watch a movie, the Carter’s basement theatre. It’s better than an actual movie theatre. Thanks guys!

I wasn’t sure what to think going into this flick but was pleasantly surprised. Funny. Insightful. Relevant. Good plot. I’d recommend it, but I do want to know how true it all is. Of course it’s been fabricated some, it’s Hollywood. I read some articles about it’s authenticity, and most say it’s a defamation of character. Who knows? Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, Zuckerberg and all the people he screwed, or didn’t, are LOADED and set for life.

Regardless of how ‘dirty’ or proper this all played out, Facebook has legitimately changed our world. You’re dominating. After launching in 2004, Facebook has grown to more than 500 million users with 70% of those being outside the U.S. Twitter, probably your next leading venue, has more than 190 million users. Facebook’s newest goal is to reach one billion users. Hello, there are only seven billion people in the world. These numbers floor me, but this Golden Globe win is the cherry on top of how big you really are.

If you’re not at least on Facebook, you’re behind. My question: are you detrimental in any way? Did some research on this as well (one article I read). About 55% of users seem to be teens and 91% of these teens say they use you to keep up with friends they see frequently. While I’d argue keeping up with friends from afar (Kamp, college and high school friends) is a benefit to you, a direct hindrance could be the lack of interpersonal communication skills being developed. I don’t care how smart someone is. If they can’t communicate, they will struggle in life to some degree.

You also have benefits. Instant connection to blogs and web sites enhances engagement in world issues. Twitter has become my greatest source of news. If I want more information, then I’ll click the link and read more. Moderate use of you promotes collaboration and doesn’t show declines in physical activity, reading, etc. Obsessive use is where the issues lie.

All this leaves me pondering my use of you. I check Twitter at least 8-12 times a day and Facebook at least once if not more. Part of this is because it’s on my phone, but I’d still do it often. Is this unhealthy? Am I too dependent on you? I love the connections you open. My friend just returned from a mission trip in Albania and will continue to keep up with a girl she met there through Facebook. Another friend just got picked up to play professional European volleyball. I will keep up with her through you. I know fun details of my friend’s lives I’d never know otherwise because of you.

You have great purpose and functionality, and you’ve changed our culture forever. I just want to find the balance of you not defining me and simply being an instrument of increased communication.

Congratulations on your success,

Balancer of your usefulness and positives with your hindrances and negatives

 

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