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Facebook: Feelgood or Force for Change 18 December 2007

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Ponderings.
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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of my readers that I’m on Facebook – indeed I’m sure some of you have found this blog from it. (After all, the nifty little sitemeter gadget is an efficient little spy…)

Facebook, and other social networking sites like it, often provoke an interesting variety of reactions, from incomprehension through suspicion through avid fandom, and all stages in between. It can be a highly addictive medium, after all. What starts as a simple means of keeping in touch with friends spreads. I must confess to browsing through the lists of my friends friends in the hope of reconnecting with other old friends and acquaintances, and very rewarding it is too.

Then there’s a variety of rather simple and simplistic games, all carefully packaged to draw you in further and help you to waste precious time during work hours playing Tetris or Scrabble look-a-likes.

If that wasn’t enough there’s the opportunity to identify yourself with various pre-existing networks, through the medium of common email addresses from what I can tell, which explains how my only network is EMUT.*

Then there are groups, opportunities to join with folks of a like mind, either by invitation or by random, ranging from the entirely serious through the darkly humorous, the slightly morbid and the gently (or not so gently) ridiculous. There’s even causes, which I haven’t yet really explored, simply because I don’t quite trust anything that purports to donate money simply for membership.

And it’s all free. To join costs you nothing, or rather, costs nothing in money. And here, possibly, is the Dark Side. Every application you add gets your personal details in the form of an email address, and the right to look at your other data, so far as I can tell. There have been warnings about grounds for possible identity theft – for example your “friends” can see everything you put there (although there are privacy options), including potentially useful information for stealing your identity, or helping to access other “secure” on-line sites. It wouldn’t be too easy to gather details like “pet’s name” (a frequent reminder for passwords), or “first school” and the like. Using them wouldn’t be so easy, but not that difficult either for the dedicated cyber-criminal.

On top of that there’s the danger of what could be termed “cyber-stalking.” That old acquaintance you thought so much of a while back? They might (and often do) post all sorts of photographs of themselves. Combine that with a willingness to impart seemingly random information to on-line interviews and your left with a strange mix of permissive voyeurism and the feeling of knowing someone when really you do not.

As usual (and this is typical ENTJ behaviour, I’m led to believe) I’ve only just reached the point I wanted to post about…

It took me a while to find out about the televisual protest of Archbishop John Sentamu recently. and I’m impressed. A grand act in keeping with the prophetic actions of the Old Testament Prophets. Of itself it will achieve nothing though. That is not cynicism, that is blatant fact. A hardened individual like Robert Mugabe (however charitable or not you may wish to be about him) will not be quaking in his boots as a result.

I am, however, somewhat of a cynical and sceptical bent. So when a Facebook group “York vs Mugabe” sprang up my main question was “is there really any point in my joining this?” Set aside the literal issue of the title, with me not being in York, but what is it. Yes, a bunch of like-minded people, and, forgive my cynicism again, naybe some folks who would like to jump on a bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong – I applaud the Archbishop. But the point of the prophetic is to speak a word, that at least in part, brings change. Which brings me back to the original question, “is there really any point in my joining this?” If I don’t do something, then the answer is no.

Now all that would be a really rather and negative post if I left it there, but then I stumbled upon this, Power of Facebook affects law.

The question it begs of me, and all of us, is really whether I’m willing to get up and do something, or whether I just sit behind my keyboard pontificating?

(*EMUT – East Midlands University Town)

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