Some have argued that the emergence of modern mass media would signal the death of traditional culture, in all its forms, whether it be feeling a true sense of community during meetings with friends and family, or holding events to share our talents and network with real people. The sharing of creative skills and artistic traditions has always been important to society, and on a local and national level, has brought people together through mutual interests. Through fear of change and the rapid move towards translating our everyday culture into technological terms, some say that much is being lost in the move, and that we are losing the benefits of tradition such as a sense of community, face to face interaction and, generally, true connections. However, as Henry Jenkins advises in his 2006 book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (pg 135-6 New York University Press), this time of change and movement, towards bigger and better ways to communicate, share and participate, not only reaffirms these traditions, but gives us a new, and some would insist, better way to both connect with a huge group of people, both friends and new acquaintances, and share our talents with them.
There is only (and let’s be realistic here) one answer to the question that I am posing now: Who gives us the best opportunity to participate in this movement towards online life within the world of media platforms?
Yes, you’re right, Facebook.
Sure Tumblr, Twitter, Google, and Blogging sites of all kinds are competing effectively for the attention of everyone willing to spending half their lives online (and the other half sleeping, or doing something where you cannot hold a smartphone, or look at and type on a laptop or tablet). But they cannot yet do what Facebook has done. When one thinks of the word ‘social networking’ one might initially think of a hazy image of small icons being linked using the metaphysical spidery fingers of the World Wide Web; take for instance the image that accompanies the sign-up function on the Facebook homepage before you log in. But second to this is an image of the Facebook newsfeed, or a Facebook logo. There’s a reason why the film which tracked the invention of Facebook is titled ‘The Social Network’.
Facebook is also a verb now; when we arrange meetings with friends, need to talk about an assignment or want to share a video or website with someone, we say “I’ll facebook you.” Facebook enables a process that had only just begun to revolutionise the way we interact and how people see us. MySpace came before, and was, and is, a great way to share content and talk to people. But it does not, in any way, monopolise the market in terms of the flow of media content from the physical world to the Web. Facebook facilitates the flow of so many types of media that it has become a touch-point for the not only talking to your friends, but for events management, gaming, music and video sharing, advertising, emailing and creating photo albums.
It has also become a new type of ID; how would you know when someone’s birthday was, or where they worked, or who they had just begun a relationship with if not for their Facebook profile? More alarmingly, Facebook now functions as a geo-locator, and enables all of your Facebook ‘friends’, not just your real friends and family, to know where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing.
It’s everywhere… And we’re the ones to blame.
What would the world be like now if we hadn’t flocked to Facebook? If we hadn’t decided that Facebook suited our needs more than MySpace could and that we wanted it to be part of every day of our lives?
Here the medium is definitely the message. And that message is that we, the people, are pushing our cultural lives into a new dimension, with new capabilities, and and a new way to feel like we’re really a party of a community. We are prosumers, modders, and and dictators of cultural convergence. It’s not Facebook the company that matters; it’s what we, the people, decided it should become in our lives that has made it an extension of our physical reality.