Facebook Frenzy!

I am horrible about staying in touch with people when I’m away at school. My friends from home constantly berate me after long absences with limited communication. Even my father, my designated ’email buddy,’ will tease me about the amount of time it takes for me to get back to him. I understand their frustration completely. In fact, I’m not even exactly sure how I became so inept at online communications, especially since I’m a frequent user of several social networking sites. For socializing with my friends, our primary resource is Facebook. Oh Facebook.

On February 4th, Facebook celebrated their 7th anniversary. That same day I received a phone call from a friend, just to chat, but her immediate reaction was: “Wow, I was actually able to get in contact with you.” These two concurrent events made me think a bit more about my Facebook socialization throughout the years. In more recent years, when the site would have actually been a valuable resource for keeping in touch with my high school friends, my interest in Facebook has waned. Personally, I prefer Twitter, a preference that most of my friends unfortunately do not share.

I do, however, remember my first experiences with Facebook. I remember the ‘addiction’ and the excitement of this new website. And I remember how pathetically encapsulating the site became. I believe I first started my account toward the end of my Junior year of high school (that would be nearly 5 years ago now). Fresh off of MySpace, I was excited to find out about this more ‘grown-up’ various of social networking (not that I had even heard the term ‘social networking’ before). At the time, my brother had just entered college, and as the pretentious kid he was at that age, he was under the firm belief that Facebook should be for college students only–after all, he argued, that’s who it was created for. Instead, the fad quickly leaked into high schools, and eventually penetrated the walls of middle schools as well. Now, Facebook boasts 550 million users worldwide. The site is available in 70 different languages (I’m unsure if that stat includes the ‘pirate’ language feature).

Needless to say, Facebook is impressive. It has also become a key part of our society and culture. Who hasn’t heard someone say something along the lines of “Well, I don’t really know [name] but we’re friends on Facebook,” or “Oh yea, they broke up. I saw it on Facebook.” It has infiltrated our culture, even begin used as a verb, much like Google is (“I facebooked him/her. She seemed cool” & “We’ll have to Facebook”).

I use Facebook primarily for personal socialization– though not nearly as frequently as I apparently should. However, several companies have also taken advantage of the opportunity to ‘keep in touch’ with their customers. Companies and brands roll inΒ  publicity from users’ ability to ‘like’ their work, or add them as an interest. We all want our profiles to be an accurate (though super cool) portrayal of ourselves, and this often means mentioning interests and favorites (i.e. Dunkin Donuts coffee– yep, here’s a shout out for DD!).

From a site that was created for Harvard student only, then college students, then spread to the general public–Facebook has certainly grown. This no use supposing this is just some passing trend. Facebook is an essential resource for companies as well as the general user. Despite my own personal receding interest, Facebook won’t be going out of style anytime soon. Nor will I cancel my account. In fact, I should clarify– my decreasing interest means that, instead of going on Facebook 12 times a day, I only go on 3 or 4. Still excessive by any means, but apparently not enough to ‘keep in touch.’ Facebook isn’t going anywhere any time soon– and that’s okay with all of us!

p.s. I debated prefacing this post with a viewer alert that no, I have not in fact seen The Social Network (I know, shame on me). Instead, this tidbit will just have to do as a post script.

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Know what I Meme?

The internet can be a mystifying place. And I don’t just mean the labyrinth-esque routes to websites, nor the complex jargon. No, I’m talking about all those memes out there.

What is a meme? Well, I’m glad you ask, because despite being what I had assumed was ‘hip’ to the internet lingo, I still only learned this term during the past year. To discover the definition for myself, I turned to faithful Wikipedia, just another internet creation that couldn’t live without. Wikipedia defined a meme (which they first told me is pronounced to rhyme with cream…good thing I had never actually had a chance to speak it aloud because I’m quite sure that I would not have pronounced it as such) as “ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another.” Vague, right? So I read on: “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.” Still vague. Here I was, thinking that a meme would automatically be in reference to the internet– how foolish of me, living in the digital age, to assume such. In fact, the concept of a meme comes from the analogy that “as genes transmit biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information.” They are applicable throughout culture, including in spheres of religion, models of racism, and anthropological theories.

But to focus once more on the internet meme, this term is used to describe to describe concepts transmitted through the internet. Once more I had been hoping for a better explanation, but by coming across these indistinct interpretations I began to understand that the whole point was the memes weren’t as simple as they seemed. I was hoping for a specific definition that I could grasp and pass along, but the truth is that memes are all around us on the internet. By using sites such as blogs, social networking, and (my latest favorite) tumblr, we are constantly transmitting these memes. The internet is the society, and the memes are the culture.

To me, memes are best represented by the internet phenomenon. My internet-saavy suitemate will often show me YouTube videos or silly blogs that, despite obscure or non sequitur references, somehow gather a cult following. These are memes. But there’s more to them than just silly ways for hipsters to pass their time. Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have all taken advantage of using memes in viral marketing. Memes help create buz about a company, product, or service. They’re inexpensive and, if conducted properly, can become quite popular, especially with niche audiences. They’re also a great way to show creativity. Often the film industry will use memes to generate attention for movies.

For further information on memes, I highly suggest the website Know Your Meme. You will find yourself bombarded with hours of useless information and entertainment.