Facebook's influence hasn't dimmed

If Facebook had never been created, April Minter might never have reconnected with a high school friend who was serving in the Army in Qatar in 2008.

Three months ago, that friend became her husband.

“I would say that’s pretty life-changing,” said Minter, 27, who said she credits Facebook for the state of her life.

“We fell in love with each other while corresponding through Facebook. I’m not sure that we would have seen each other again and gotten to know one another any other way,” the Brookhaven resident said.

The accuracy of the celluloid version of Zuckerberg and the invention of Facebook in “The Social Network” is debatable; Zuckerberg refused to cooperate with director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who relied on legal documents, independent interviews with other involved parties and Ben Mezrich’s book, “The Accidental Billionaires” for source material.

But the who-said-what/who-did-what intricacies of the arrival of Facebook are almost irrelevant now. Facebook changed communication. It changed the most primitive forms of socializing. It changed lives.

How could anyone diminish the effect of a medium that can both lead to marriage and give people an outlet to discuss whether Michael Bolton deserved an apology during his “Dancing With the Stars” stint?

Dr. Ian Bogost, director of graduate studies at Georgia Tech, contributed an essay to the book, “Facebook and Philosophy,” released last week, that details his frustration with being unable to join the UCLA Facebook network, despite earning two degrees from the university.

But his article, “Ian Became A Fan of Marshall McLuhan on Facebook and Suggested You Become A Fan, Too,” also examines how Facebook has enhanced such staples of communication as the yearbook and diary – “formal tools of social documentation” – while sending other universal practices, such as reunions, down a path of obsolescence.

While he agreed, in a follow-up interview with the AJC, that reconnecting on Facebook isn’t a fair substitute for a physical reunion, he also noted, “That’s not how media evolve, through fairness. They shift and change both with and without us, and part of the work we do as creators and users is continually to evaluate how we feel about the new media waves we’re riding, and to adjust as best we can.”

There have been thousands of dissertations dedicated to the detriments of Facebook, with addictiveness topping the list.

As Facebook expanded into more than a simple site to tell friends about your breakfast consumption or a change in relationship status, millions of users found their lives being controlled by the desire to share every mundane detail of their day – while simultaneously taking quizzes about '80s songs and harvesting virtual corn on FarmVille.

Some, such as Angel Arrington, have relied on self-discipline, even taking self-imposed hiatuses from the site.

“It made me feel like I owed the world an explanation as to my whereabouts and my day-to-day – sometimes hour-to-hour – activities,” she said. “On my hiatus, I realized that most people who post these happy-go-lucky updates are either lying or seriously editing what is really going on in their lives. It also made me realize that I’m not even close to having 500 ‘friends.’ Being absent from the site for a number of days, I now know my real number of friends is more like nine.”

While Arrington, a 37-year-old Smyrna resident, is back on Facebook, she is committed to using it only for networking and has removed the site’s app from her iPhone to discourage temptation.

Likewise, Megan Manuele of Chamblee, who first used Facebook to launch a real estate career. Now working for Keller Williams Realty, Manuele, 26, is able to communicate with several hundred clients and advertise real estate listings on her work page.

“Maybe Facebook hasn’t changed my life,” she said, “but I have changed how Facebook works for my life.”

Tyler Bell, a 21-year-old political science/pre-law senior at Morehouse College, said that while Facebook has been invaluable in helping him keep in touch with his friends and family and mitigating feelings of separation, he has also worked hard to cultivate restraint.

Though he admits to being on the site constantly, even when studying, he believes he’s tamed his addiction -- especially compared to his first year at the school.

“I thank Mark Zuckerberg for what he and his invention have helped me accomplish socially,” Bell said. “But he has already made his fortune, so it’s time for me to logout so I can create my empire as well.”

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