Paul Levinson’s book, New New Media, covers a lot of issues that I have been pondering myself for a while in a cohesive, realistic way. I really enjoyed reading this book.
In chapter 7, Levison has a lot of practical insight on Facebook and it’s function in society, and its comparisons to MySpace. One point Levinson makes about the difference of the two sites is that Facebook is grounding in the “offline” life of its users, where as MySpace is more for the “online” friendship community. I had never thought about the two sites differences this way before- I always just assumed that people just jumped on the Facebook wagon and that accounted for its sudden popularity, but there is absolute truth to that. I know everyone on my Facebook account in the “offline” world, and refuse to use it for people I do not know, or would have some sort of real life interaction with in the future. Personally I never became involved with MySpace because, during its hay day, I was very anti-online socializing via MySpace. I thought it was abused, cheesy, and a communication killer. When I was in high school and MySpace blew up, it was mostly used by my peers to attack each other online, or they used it to talk to strangers. Not my thing.
But perhaps this is why Facebook has become the social networking empire? Because it is grounded on the basis of your “offline” life “online”, I feel more comfortable using it.
I also liked the point Levinson makes about “status” updates on Facebook. I always feel as if they are used by my peers in attention seeking means, but Levinson used an example about how he uses his status to ask questions of his friends, to use his online friend base an encyclopedia (123) He discusses how the “status” can be used to ask questions you may not be able to find on the web, or any other way. I see a few of my peers using Facebook in this way, to ask questions about something that may have recently happened on campus, or in town. I know I have personally used Facebook and my “status” updates to get my friends to take a survey for a research class last semester. I was having trouble finding people to take it online, so I used my status and had a great deal of responses.
Usually I am a big anti-Facebook, anti-MySpace kind of gal, but after reading Levinson’s view on the sites it makes me appreciate them for what they are intended. Facebook as a “real-time knowledge resource”, as Levinson calls it, is a remarkable tool and eases the communication process, especially in terms of school work. His explanation of real-time knowledge made me appreciate the ways in which new new media can be used, and are mostly intended for (123). Levinson also talked about the social and political forces of Facebook groups, and mentions the 2008 election, which is a topic I myself am researching for a paper in another class. Facebook was such a force for president Obama’s campaign, which cannot be overlooked. I am glad that scholars are examining this and taking it seriously.
And his comparison of Facebook being a virtual, more successful pub- that was a pretty awesome analogy, and I agree with him. I just wish I was involved with more people in the online world who use Facebook as a means of intelligent debate, rather than a page to promote yourself and how popular you are.