Let’s face it, if you are not on Facebook you’re just not facing up to cyber life in the 21st Century. I can say this because six months ago I finally became a member of this not-so-exclusive club. In 2008 there were 3 million Australians on Facebook. Last year that doubled to 6 million and the latest figure is 9 million. At this rate just about every Australian will have a Facebook page by 2014.
Being someone who is social-media challenged I had to ask a much younger friend at work to help me join. I thought being on Facebook was for teenagers and then I changed my mind. Actually ABC managing director Mark Scott did. He sent us an email urging us all to be a part of this brave new world. We are also being urged to have blogs and Twitter but I can only cope with so much change in a year.
My preconception about it being a teenage thing was reinforced when I saw the rules for becoming a member. You have to declare you are 13 or older. Before I signed up I thought you could only be a member if you were 13. I had seen a friend’s daughter obsessively typing and posting fish-eyed phone camera photos on their computer and so I thought Facebook was some sort of giggly internet Saddle Club without the horses.
The tragic death of Carly Ryan had also made me think it was a rather sullied and dangerous place to play. So when I heard that adults were on Facebook I wondered what they were up to. Then we had Kevin 07 announcing he had so many Facebook friends it wasn’t funny. It’s also funny now to think that all those “friends” couldn’t help put Kevin back together again.
Maybe there is a lesson there. If Kevin had only spent a bit more time developing real friends, his life would have been very different. And speaking of lessons, according to a new study from the Netherlands, students who use social network sites while studying – even if it is just in the background – end up with exam results 20 per cent lower than their peers. Professor Paul Kirschner said the constant task-switching meant everything took longer to get done, and led to more mistakes. You see now why Kevin had such a big drop in his results.
Is there a lesson, too, for our Premier? The other day it was announced that Mike Rann had 10,000 followers on Twitter. But the polls at the last election showed the voters were more enamoured of Isobel Redmond who I have never heard a tweet out of. Barack Obama is struggling despite having a huge social-media profile.
This brings us to Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old billionaire creator of Facebook, and his appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show on September 24. He announced he was going to give away $100 million to the Newark New Jersey school system. Maybe he’s feeling bad about how many students are doing poorly thanks to Facebook. Or maybe it’s because he’s worried that the new film which tells the story behind his creation, leaves him with some egg on his Facebook.
According to the Rich List he is the 35th richest person in the US. So he probably doesn’t care what people think. Or maybe he does. He can always find out by checking what they are saying on Facebook. And that reminds me, I had better log in to my Facebook page. You’d better join if you haven’t already. You’ll have a lot more “friends”, but your academic performance might suffer. Let’s face it, that’s a pretty tough choice.