Introspections & Retrospections

The Original Social Network

In the past few months, social media giant Facebook has tremendously evolved. Or should I say, mutated. It used to be a mere lackluster social network, where throwing a sheep was the best fun I could remember (and still miss). Now, it’s become the thriving online social community where everybody should be (Ha! Funny, most of my friends used to scoff me back in 2008 when I insisted them to sign up in Facebook, back when they were all still enamored with Friendster — sumalangit nawa).

Finally, it has transitioned into the obvious next step: commerce (outrightly, not that it wasn’t that obvious in the past months). Well, any sociologist could have predicted that happening. I mean, sure – trading started even when communities were relatively small (and simple). But tracking back history, we all know that as civilizations grew, so does the concept of business. Small peaceful societies get dragged into the quickening pace of exciting new ventures. Thy eventually leave behind what used to be the sedentary lifestyle of the rural lands. Major business districts bloated up, and those who lived outside those teeming marketplaces continued to exist in blissful ignorance (And of course, the over-expanding societies as well as the virtual ghost towns eventual collapsed, that’s for someone else to write about).

I still remember my childhood in Naga City. Yes, it wasn’t really much of an urban area that time – but you should pay a visit to my father’s hometown. THAT was rural. But I loved that town just as much then as I loved my own city (or perhaps, even more). There wasn’t much to do back then except spend time with my relatives, and as a child it was one of my most pleasurable memories. But then, urban development came to the city. And with it, the wonders of technology, modern society and other youthful ideals. I started getting bored going to my once-beloved rickety home in San Jose, Partido (though there were other factors that contributed to that, too). By the time I was in college, I could not stand staying even for a night with my relatives or even parents.

The blurring speed of how online communication progressed is amazing. Back in high school, we got our kicks from midnight telephone calls that took an hour or until dawn (or maybe two minutes, which was how long a P1.00 call would allow). Then there was the brief craze over ham radios. Then the introduction of the commercial mobile phone (which I didn’t get to enjoy until I was already in MetroManila). And of course, the internet.

Ah, emails. It felt like a groundbreaking event. But oh, exchanging emails led to instant messaging – where MiRC and Yahoo Messenger overtook MSN messenger. And yes, LAN games! It finally broke the two/four-player barrier; gamers finally were able to enjoy a game with more buddies! And of course, who could forget the chaotic chat rooms???

[Skipped about online forum threads and discussion boards – because… Because.]

Fast forward to Friendster. Ah, that was like the online-version of puppy love. Until it started speaking gibberish, and mangy mongrels made the Friendster experience like a dumpster experience. But wait! There’s still a plethora of other social networks that popped up from the cyber-anthropological cesspool! So the network wars began on Twitter, MySpace, Multiply, Plurk, etc.

[In another universe, bloggers continued to blog as they always had – barely noticed by the frisky short-attention-spanned netizens who are often too lazy to read beyond a paragraph. Or less.]

Then sometime in 2008-2009, Facebook rose to glory. I couldn’t remember if it was the gaming craze, the quiz craze, or the tagging craze which dragged the people in by hordes. But I’m pretty sure that one pivotal event in the Philippines where a lot of people were convinced to join Facebook was after Ondoy struck in 2009.

And again, the rest is history (if you weren’t around back then, you probably aren’t old enough to read up to this section. Or you’ve been living in a psychological anti-social cave).

I loved seeing how my circle of acquaintances grew, thanks to social networking. It was a valuable tool for me not only to be understood (which was a rarity) but more importantly, to understand other people. I was able to minister to more young people online that I could have in person. I wasn’t a Facebook addict; I was an online minister, a Facebook netizen.

(Debate on defining “addiction” — some other time, unless you really wanna scuffle it up in the comments section hahaha).

Nowadays, I feel a twist in my gut whenever I see a youth preferring to loiter online than enjoy having fun with siblings (well, I guess I admit I didn’t enjoy being with ALL of them ALL the time). I’m not talking about Facebook alone; it includes all online habits such as reading mangas, chatting, or playing games. Not that I don’t like them. In fact, I would encourage it at some point. But not to the extent where one would exchange the real life, real time human interaction experience for a virtual experience – particularly one the actual humans we need to interact/communicate with are actually just within shouting distance (which, amusingly, seems to have become relatively shorter – even up to a few feet away).

I remember a corny but thought-provoking scene from the movie SpyKids. A kid was bragging about his new spy watch gadget which featured a lot of super cool functions. But it lacked one fundamental feature: it does not tell the time.

Social media is a wonderful human invention. I myself have benefitted much from it. But when a tool ceases to function for its true purpose, why should I continue using it? For the convenience? For the practicality or sentimentality?

I believe in the wonderful potentials of social media. But like any tool, it has capacity to do both good and bad. When Nobel invented the dynamite, he envisioned it for improved mining activities; in fact, when he found out later that people were using it to win wars (specifically, kill people), he was so aghast. The rest of his story led to the Nobel Peace Prize. Likewise, when Einstein successfully completed the theory of relativity, he never realized it paving the way to the invention of the atomic bomb.

Change is inevitable – that I agree with. It applies to everything online (and offline). Why should our choices be any different?

And yet, why shouldn’t we revert to how God originally designed the original social network? The manual may seem old and dusty, but like all the classics and vintage stuff – it remains priceless. And best feature: timelessness simply means no stupid updates/upgrades required.

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One thought on “The Original Social Network

  1. lyncabiling says:

    this is such a long post, kuya! but then let me second you on this one.facebook was way better 6-7 years back. it was very simple, no games yet but hey, they have to do it all for the sake of marketing. we can't blame them naman.

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