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The consequences of connection: How is Facebook changing society?



social-networking-addictive-1.jpgThe media world moves so quickly, sometimes we're all transformed before we realize.

That's what struck me most after seeing The Social Network, the movie about the creation of Facebook that leaves out what some might say is the story's most important part:

Why this website has become so popular and how it is changing us in ways we don't even realize.

I took a swipe at answering those questions in a front-page story for today's newspaper. In writing about a subject large as Facebook, you quickly realize a central problem: The network, its audience and its implications are so big, you either wind up writing stories that only describe parts of the larger dynamic, or you get stuck in a big think piece that can't be specific enough to have an impact.

Here's the part of my story I like most: "If Google's success stamped the last 10 years as the Search Decade, then Facebook's ascendancy heralds the Database Age, where the most popular website doesn't organize the Internet, it organizes you." Think on what that means for a moment, in between spurts of playing Farmville or looking up old girlfriends.

I stumbled on some pretty cool stories about how people use facebook that didn't fit in the final piece, so I'm going to publish them here. Check out a few vignettes summing up the possibilities -- and dangers -- at our fingertips in the new world of connection.

facebook-chipps2.jpgStory One: She used to make fun of people who wasted their time on Facebook. In fact, Merritt Island flight attendant Valerie Chipps joined the site in 2008 only to make fun of a friend who already had an account. But then Chipps got a friend request from an old high school buddy. After the requisite catching up and reconnecting, she noticed pal Jennifer DiQuollo belonged to a special Facebook group called “save a life, donate a kidney.”

Turns out, DiQuollo was connected to another friend who shared Chipps’ blood type. After a tissue match, she was ready to give one of her kidneys to a man she barely knew, an Atlanta-based sound engineer with a genetic disease named Freddie Chancellor.

“I’m certainly not an angel; I just believe living organ donation is an important thing,” said Chipps, who later found Chancellor has developed antibodies that make her kidney donation impossible. She still hopes to donate to someone else. “I’ll gladly give up a little privacy for these kinds of positives.”


facebook-marriagebook1.jpgAfter writing the book on Facebook relationships, Facebook and Your Marriage, married co-authors K. Jason Krafsky and Kelli Krafsky heard from a woman whose husband had an odd response after she complained that he seemed only to be interacting with women on the site.

He defriended her.

“Just because you can do things on Facebook, it doesn’t mean you should,” says Jason Krafsky, who encouraged the woman and her husband to talk offline about their relationship. “You’re taking split seconds to react (online), but when it comes to relationships, you can’t really react in split second kind of ways. You need to think things through.”

Regarding romance on Facebook, the Krafskys have three suggestions for couples: Don’t “friend” ex-lovers, do share your username and password with your spouse, and be careful of the time you spend online.

The couple, married for 16 years, co-wrote Facebook and Your Marriage after initially friending past partners and seeing emotions rise that rocked their relationship. “When the brain sees someone who had a past bonding experience with, its really easy for those feelings to go into overdrive and you make stupid decisions,” Jason Krafsky says, comparing it to a midlife crisis without the sports car.

Other tips from Kelli Krafsky: talk offline about online issues; don’t comment on everything your child posts (instead, keep quiet and enjoy the unfiltered look at your kid’s life); and don’t use Facebook to spy on your partner or spouse.

Instead, flirt with your partner and sing his or her praises to your Facebook universe. That’s an online gift bound to keep on giving.

[Last modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 11:06am]


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