It could be said that all social networking websites are simply electronic replacements, admittedly with a few shiny extra features, for traditional means of communicating and archiving. Blogs are online diaries, Twitter posts are notes passed in class. Facebook is no different. As a form of communication it is like a town or youth group meeting: it connects us with others in similar circles we may not necessarily have met before, expanding one’s friendship groups far beyond those previously available.
Not only does it widen communication possibilities, Facebook is like an online scrapbook of memories. Textual and visual communication techniques are combined to allow us to post and catalogue photographs, share ideas and comment on events. In this way a Facebook user is not simply displaying elements of their life but also having them stored on the internet much like an online annotated photo album.
The style of Facebook, that of being a website which allows for networking as well as sharing media, can be seen to have been inspired by the early social networking website Friendster as well as the colloquially named ‘face book’ for Harvard students. The former also allowed for the uploading of photographs along with communication between geographically separate individuals. Its influence, as well as that of the previously mentioned Harvard University student phonebook, can be seen in Facebook’s focus on extensive profiles and ability to find and interact with widespread users. Facebook’s simple, easy to use design is perfect its user base. As the website is in theory open to anyone over the age of 13 the need to present a format everyone can understand is vital. A single search bar allows for wide searches for people, places, games and discussion pages without the confusion of multiple search routes. The constant flow of reports coming from the newsfeed also plays to a user’s laziness as it presents almost all new information about the people and pages subscribed to without the need to actively search for any of it. Social networking websites represent a colossal shift in the way people communicate and interact generally. With sites such as Facebook as a mediator there is no longer a need to meet people in a traditional sense as two people can have entire relationships over the internet without ever needing to converse in person. We use Facebook, superficially, to communicate and share information about ourselves like a public diary yet perhaps we also use it to hide. On Facebook, you can have thousands of friends. And at the end of the relationship, after finding out everything about each other through dated timelines of statuses and photos, the ‘friendship’ can be terminated without mess or fuss with the click of a single Unfriend button.