Even with so many ways to procrastinate already, Facebook has become the new fashion. Kim van Beeck and Danielle Brock waste time with you.

The end of the term is approaching and essay writing season is well on its way. You are swamped by readings, you have assignments a mile long. It’s late at night and you’re at your computer… on Facebook. For those of you who have no clue what this is, you have been a living a technological hole.

Facebook is the latest social networking website where members can find friends, leave messages for each other, share photos and generally keep in touch with others. It allows you to create a profile for yourself, including your personal information, interests and a photo. Facebook is a relatively safe way to swap information – as members choose who gets to see their profile and comments are monitored by the Facebook administrators. You can also join groups with interests similar (or not even close) to your own. Although this might be new for some students, Facebook has become, in its relatively short life at Rhodes, a phenomenon. According to the IT Division’s statistics available online, students spend more time on the Facebook website than any other site, including Google, MSN and Yahoo. The same statistics show that the Facebook website is accessed approximately 797 891 times in 24 hours, as opposed to MySpace which is accessed 55 668 times in the same time period. Facebook is similar to MySpace, Hi5 and other popular file sharing networks. Unlike these sites though, you must be part of one of the registered schools, colleges, universities, businesses or geographic regions to join.

Facebook was originally started in February 2004 as a hobby project by a student at Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg. Originally called “thefacebook”, the name of the site is based on the paper facebooks that US universities give to incoming students and staff depicting members of the campus community. Within months, the website’s popularity spread to other American university campuses. After the initial success in America, Zuckerberg joined two other Harvard students, dropped out of college and took the site to the next level. Now the Facebook network extends to seven other English-speaking countries and is growing all the time. The company has been so successful that the revenue for 2006 was an estimated $50 million, thanks to their 18 million current users.

As of February 2007, the website had the largest number of registered users among college-focused sites. Facebook has been particularly successful because of its popularity on campuses. One of the first members of the Rhodes network was Bianca Camminga, a BA Honours student. She was introduced to Facebook by some American friends she met at a conference. “They were all in contact with their families and friends all over the world, they set up ‘I love South Africa’ groups, documented their travels, uploaded pictures. It was huge! All the Rhodes people were pretty jealous,” says Camminga. She then received an invite to the site. “I joined and told everyone who was anyone to get on, they told their friends and friends told others and it ballooned to what it is now! A gigantic wonderment of globalisation and mind-altering procrastination, but isn’t it beautiful?” she asked.

At present there are approximately 2270 people who are part of the Rhodes network. While this is great way of communication, it has also become the devil of procrastination. Facebook has become the new home for bored students and members can sit on the site for hours, completely addicted. Farrah Hayes, a first-year BCom student says, “Little messages come up and I just have to see what it is. I see what’s happening while I’m doing my work.” Go into the Jac Labs at any time of the day and while you’re rushing to get your essay printed, at least 10 people may be sitting on Facebook messaging people they probably see every day. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with people on campus and with friends from home. Andrew Blair, a BSocSci student says, “I hadn’t seen someone I went to junior school with or heard from him in seven years and I found him on Facebook the other day.”

“It’s all about networking. Before, we used telephones or letters – which were a whole lot slower. Facebook just takes away the hassle,” said Dr Mark de Vos of the Department of English Language and Linguistics. He explained that people are, by nature, “communicative animals” and that it is natural to want to keep in touch with others. “It’s not the file sharing that is addictive, but rather the communication – in the same way that going to the Rat & Parrot is a form of communicating with others.”

He believes that the reason so many students have found an interest in Facebook at Rhodes is because it is centred around a physical space. That is, people enjoy it because the interactions they have are based on reality. You communicate with people on a day to day basis – through the physical and the digital. “There is a sense of skinder to it,” he says, commenting on the way in which Facebook allows one to keep updated with others’ personal details. One could ask whether this digital form of communication is changing the way we interact with each other but Dr De Vos has no worries about this. “If I walked into the Rat and everyone was home on the computer then I’d be worried, but I don’t think that will happen.”

So the next time you hear someone say “I’ll facebook you” across campus, don’t be shocked or scared. It is a not a form of violence, just a couple of bored, Rhodes students staying up late when they should be working, sending endless (and mostly pointless) messages to each other.

Facebook groups:
A fun and interesting dimension to Facebook is its groups. These range from the serious (politics, AIDS, religion) to the downright ridiculous. Here are some favourites:
“The Drunken Text Appreciation Society”
“Enough with the poking, let’s just have sex”
“I secretly want to punch slow-walking people in the back of the head”
“I will go slightly out of my way to step on that crunchy looking leaf”
“I picked a major I like and one day I will probably be living in a box”
“The official rules for Shotgun”
“Rat and Parrot Appreciation Society”
“The cane train”
“People who don’t sleep enough because they stay up late for no reason”
“Gary the aubergine/brinjal/eggplant”


22 Responses to Facebook

  1. Steve says:

    Has anyone tried MyBlogLog?

    It seems a lot more interesting than Facebook

  2. […] on social networking It seems that at last Facebook is taking off among South African students. It was originally intended for use by students, and has […]

  3. candace tintinger says:

    I just had to comment on the fact that the paper says that Bianca Camminga was one of the first members to join facebook! I would like to know how the journalists that wrote the article came to that conclusion???? Where are the facts that prove that she was one of the first people to join facebook???? It is in my understanding that in order to produce a piece of writing for any newspaper publication certain undeniable facts need to be in place. Going on hear say is not enough! I demand that the statement be backed up by facts that cannot be disputed.

  4. Ian says:

    It seems as though you misread the article, Candace. It states clearly that Bianca Camminga was “one of the first members of the RHODES network” on Facebook, not that she was one of the first members ever to join Facebook. I admit that the statement is not directly attributed and that I could not check its validity on Facebook, but from the context I would assume that Bianca herself was the source of this fact.

  5. candace tintinger says:

    Even if she was one of the first Ian the statement needs to be backed-up by undeniable evidence! If Bianca was the source of the fact then tell me how a journalist could have used it??????? People lie all the time…you cannot go on someone’s word, especially in the field of journalism and more specifically in this case. I did not read the article wrong, I meant the RHODES network. If you could not check the validity of the statement then WHY use it…are you not going against everything they try and teach you in journ. it is my belief that by doing that you are creating a mere work of fiction that you are trying to pass off as a factual event… I truly feel that it was very unethical of the writer/s and eds ,for the student paper, not to check the source. they are misleading people into believing a lie. I have one more question for you, the eds and the writers , if you are doing this at a varisty level, what will you be doing when you write for a paper like M&G????????? practice the ethics of your trade….

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    I was the first person to join facebook ever. In fact I invented it.

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