As we currently find ourselves directly in the middle of the Age of Technology, a compelling case could be made that the Internet is, to this point, technology’s crowning achievement. Just like progress itself, technology begets more technology, and with the advent of the Internet, a whole web of possibilities has been created (pun acknowledged). But if the Internet is the Model T of contemporary technology, Facebook is the sleek new Mercedes SLR. Check it out – it’s pretty awesome.

While the Internet allowed us to connect with the world, Facebook has allowed us to connect with our world. The ways in which Facebook allows us to stay in touch with friends and family are innovative and extremely powerful. Facebook’s power, however, is something that worries me.

As a Facebook user myself, I have seen firsthand the powerful effects of the Web site. Resisting Facebook at first, I thought I was being cool and staying out of the mainstream. As time went on, and more of my friends started signing up, the allure just became too much to resist. Eventually I caved, and I too made an account.

I say this simply to explain my situation and justify my position. I am not some disconnected radical trying to say that Facebook is evil. In fact, I must reiterate, I am not saying at all that Facebook is bad. I am simply saying that it is powerful.

Many people have said that instantaneous online communication has compromised the old-fashioned sense of communication – the kind that occurs in the real world – and I would have to agree with them. Facebook is an interesting case, however, both because it is so widely used that it is largely coming to define its own culture and because it has created more than just the opportunity for instant communication.

Facebook has essentially created its own online world, allowing users to create personalized identities, befriend others and join groups. This is especially helpful for people who, say, go off to college, leaving all of their high school friends behind. In cases like this, having an alternate, more familiar world to fall back on is a good thing. But what happens when this alternate world starts to replace the real world?

This is where Facebook is extremely dangerous. We all know that familiar is easier, and when it comes down to going out and meeting new people in an environment in which you know no one, or catching up with old friends on Facebook, the latter choice is often also the easier. But this choice can become very addicting, and when it’s made over and over we start to look out on the real world and realize that we are more isolated than ever.

Despite such inherent negative consequences, it is hard for me to really condemn Facebook. Is it Mark Zuckerberg’s fault that people are using his Web site to escape facing reality? The answer is no, and it is for the same reason that many people are benefiting a great deal from Facebook.

As it is with pretty much everything in life, the Facebook experience is what you make of it. Many people use Facebook to help their careers, and others still use it simply to meet new people and enhance their social life. Facebook is, after all, a social networking site.

So as long as you use it for these purposes, Facebook is an especially handy tool. The key is not to let Facebook suck you in so that you lose touch with the real world.

Going new places and meeting new people can be one of the most exciting aspects of life. Facebook has given us the power to enhance this excitement. Unfortunately, it has also given us the power to take this excitement away. With great power comes great responsibility.

The choice is yours.

Benson is a member of
the class of 2013.

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