A generation of social networking suckers

At the start of this month, I started my third and final year of University, which I find to be very weird. In fact, if I was given a £10 note for every time I have uttered the words “I can’t believe it’s nearly all over, how very very weird” in the last four months, I imagine I’d be snapping at the heels of Mark Zuckerberg on the Forbes’ World’s Billionaire List for 2014. Still, in spite of this typically sarcastic declaration, Zuckerberg’s mind-blowingly successful social networking phenomenon leaves me with a fair amount to thank him for.

Facebook has had an overwhelming effect on University life over the past five years, making it far easier to expand our social circles, communicate with our course-mates and stay connected with friends and family from back home. My own Mother, a self-proclaimed “hater” of Facebook, even signed up when I moved away as she knew it was a much simpler way of keeping in contact with me.

Catching up with friends over Skype or over the phone usually means recapping what they have already seen on their news feeds; our society has seemingly adopted this new philosophy that we need to tell the world what we are doing each and every minute of each and every day. Since the site’s 2004 launch, we have fallen victim to this pathetic necessity to share every experience, photo, ‘hilarious’ quip or story with those we are virtually connected with on the site. And few can deny that warm glow of feeling appreciated when a fellow Facebooker ‘likes’ or comments on something you have posted – oh, what shallow creatures we have become.

Nonetheless, have we ever questioned what life would be like at University without Facebook? To what extent would University life be affected without it to keep us connected to the outside world?

In a survey I conducted amongst my own Facebook friends, 60% said they thought University would be considerably worse without the social networking site, with others stating they thought it would be perhaps “socially worse, but academically better”. Suffice to say, Facebook is a popular source of procrastination when there are deadlines to meet and exams to revise for. I’m even signed into Facebook at this very moment as I write this post.

In truth, it is part of this whole fear of “missing out”. The harsh reality of it is without an account you are, to some extent, cut off. Facebook is utilised as a way of sharing and discussing ideas and problems on course-related groups, finding out about Student Union events, befriending those in your sports team or society and obtaining the details for meetings, socials and get-togethers. We create Facebook events for days out, nights out and birthdays – the suits at WH Smiths must be tearing their hair out as sales of party invitations in their greetings card department continue to plummet into near nothingness. Not to mention the advantages, though more than often in my case, disadvantages of photo sharing and the entertainment you get from looking at those snaps from the night before, struggling desperately to remember the names of those girls you became best friends with in the toilet and took thousands of pictures with to mark the occasion.

Facebook offers its users the opportunity to create better versions of who they truly are; the ingredients to emitting a more vibrant, fun and flourishing social life are handed to us on a plate – all we have to do is utilise them in the correct manner.

And while we hate to admit it, the social networking site consumes far more of our time than we may initially realise; the average Facebook user spends a total of 20 billion minutes on the website per day. Since Facebook was launched in February 2004, 1.5 billion of us have been posting, liking, sharing and poking (the latter applies to a mere disturbed few) online, with few of us able to go 24 hours without checking our news feed at least once.

Is Facebook making obsessive, robotic fools of us all?

I would love to say no. But if you don’t click the like button when you’ve finished reading, I will be most upset.

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