Internet does play a significant role in my life; I use it to understand myself, my communities, and the world around me. The Internet is therefore embedded in the middle of my nurturing experience in everyday life. It feeds me to cultivate my thoughts, preferences, interests, and life style.
Among many virtual places I visit everyday, one of the most accustomed media I have to admit as the comprehensive one is FaceBook. First of all, like the catch phrase the site actually use, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life,” it literally does it for me. It certainly connects with my own personal network. Its functions to peripheral applications are phenomenal as well. I can choose my personal taste and preference in types of people, pages, games, groups, causes, and links. It is a proven fact that there are many people who visit the virtual place. Statistically, it has announced this September on FaceBookster that its total number of active users has reached to 300 million. What does that mean? I think that it certainly reflects that people’s networking is expanding within the global range of society.
More in particular, FaceBook has special meaning for me because it can represent all about who I am. For example, inside of FaceBook, I can be a fan of my favorite books, authors, plays, organizations, museums, or certain group of people. Or I can be part of magazines or newspapers as a fan. Not only that, I can play music, video, games, and write comments about the materials I have accessed. I can put ads, photographs, or link to other websites as well.
So what does FaceBook really enable to be me, personally? FaceBook became the first virtual social networking tool for me. So, how? I do what other people do: connect with people they know but they cannot meet often; or people who have similar interests, talents, causes, and network. I am a huge fan of academic and the brains, so I am interested in learning and knowing theories, research, technology trends, cultural display, practicing, and innovations, etc.
Remembering the fact that I am using Facebook as a communication tool as well as a learning tool, there is a story behind making FaceBook. Like most college students Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes started Facebook at Harvard while to interact and share their thoughts and life. Probably most of college students thought about that too. Soon, it became global phenomena. While there are debates about whether Facebook has more positive effects than negative ones, my life has been positively affected tremendously by it in few months. For me, it was like a chivalry; a GREAT VEHICLE to save my miserable social life to connect with people without physical human capital!
When I think about the importance of human capital, my mind somehow tended to become very dark and silent before I had started to use FaceBook. Some people might say that I am exaggerating. Not really. Indeed, it had expanded and enriched my social circles recovering the dark age of my social functions. How? Let me explain.
I have been physically apart from my family and friends from South Korea since 2001 which is 5 762.5778 miles in distance, and18 hours in time apart the U.S. I was a full time student for past seven years devoting my time and energy to achieve my credential and masters degrees. Due to the urgency of needs to learn English, I was unable to attend many social functions; I was abstaining myself from social gathering of most kinds which at that time I perceived as a form of indulgence. I stayed at home most of the time or was at a library. I was pressured by myself and friends as well as my family to master English. My promise to limit social interaction and frequent communication were reached in my to speed up the process of learning English. Not only did I abstain from calling and snail mailing to friends and families in South Korea, but also I took the same path to my friends I had met in my teaching credential program and Masters program students at CSUS-Turlock.
I wish I had known better, but obviously, I had no knowledge of importance of social capital then, and the choices that I had made did leave me a negatively significant impact on me which was a literal isolation; I was not able to know what was going on around school and town. I did not know how regular folks in the U.S. are really thinking, doing, and interacting. Nor did I enjoy how to participate in a specific group activity. Although I understood that my emotion might be suffered due to lack of socialization, I didn’t feel that I had a choice other than that then. Also, due to the fact that I had not had enough cultural capital to perceive various cultural aspects in the U.S., I felt overwhelmed by the fact that diversity was overwhelmingly ubiquitous. Other than accepted as a wealth of opportunity of experience I dwelled on the fact that I did not know how to respond to them. As a result, it was difficult for me to interact with people who have different cultural background and race from mine. Of course, the toughest barrier at that time was the fact that I did not have perfect English skills. Convention and usage including idiomatic expressions were always making me almost miserable which now I have realized that socialization had a clear purpose in that area. But at that time, the fact made me zip my mouth and behaviors to interact with other people. Most of the time, therefore, I chose not to interact physically with the people.
When I think about that, I am not sure whether the reason I feel more comfortable to communicate with people now is due to advancement of my English or advancement of my understanding in social functions. I really do not have that answer that yet. What I do know though is that, no matter how it influenced, FaceBook has diminished all those hindrances of communicating with people from my life. As I gained confidence by virtual interactions over time, I actually feel more comfortable to communicate in face-to-face setting as well. I believe that it had proceeded as catalysis to interact with people and an effective way to get in touch with people who had similar needs.
One of the most noticeable effects of FaceBook is an unbending connection with my original Korean culture and people. I found many people who have similar situations as mine who joined in groups, such as Korean American group, Korean, Korean Names, or Korean Culture. Although I had some Korean friends around my neighborhood, it was difficult to make a close friendship with them because either they were not related to my interests, or theirs. Now, I have many friends who share similar interests and issues as me living in the U.S. Also, I can connect with my friends who live in South Korea as well. Physically, it is very hard to reach them because of the time difference between South Korean and the U.S.
Another plausible merit I experienced with FaceBook is that it allowed me to gauge of possible friendship with people I have never met in person. I can evaluate the target person to compare whether they can get along before deciding whether they want to commit to a new friendship or not. In a sense, this second-hand communication method greatly helped me to make my somehow inexperienced boundary of human capital. Of course, while making new friends, it helped me to keep my self-esteem respectfully reserved and not violated as well. Frankly speaking, I had to admit that I might have been a bit of unbalanced emotions as a result of my isolated surrounding, focusing on studying English for a long time. Looking back, it was obvious that I was sacrificing my need to take care of my social and emotional needs. Because of that, there was no way I could enjoy the level of social interaction that I do now due to the limit of time, energy, and physical invest from my part. I was not able to encounter anyone who pointed out it for me and helped me learn about it either. But then, probably I was not ready for all those flip-flop social drama either. No matter what was going on with me, physical social interactions were not working with me well. Sometimes, though, I do think seriously that I am a type of person who can be categorized as a social networking type person who prefers interaction with less physical contact. Because it not only help us out to do multi-tasking, but also it helps to reduce the anxiety of making mistakes with people who have different cultural background.
If there was no FaceBook, how can I meet all those people who vary background who I have never met? How can I ask questions of real world issues, such as poverty, trafficking, environmental issues, technology development, etc. in real time with Chat function? It did bring people, culture, and knowledge from the world around me. It allowed me to connect with people who I knew as well as new friend. So, there, FaceBook is my favorite media artifact.
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