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I don't believe Facebook is intrinsically evil.

This is not a promising way to begin a column, but it must be said upfront so that readers don't think I'm a Luddite. I am actually on Facebook and have a great many "friends." And I actually visit my homepage a couple of times a week. Like many people, I've especially enjoyed connecting with friends I haven't seen in decades.

Connecting is what Facebook promises. Not community as such, or even friendship. Everyone knows that a Facebook friend is not a friend in any meaningful sense, but only another Facebook member with whom one is "connected," meaning you have access to each other's information as compiled on your respective pages, and can, among other things, instantly get short "status updates" about what the other is thinking or doing.

Facebook is part of the larger electronic phenomenon deemed social networking, which includes text messaging, Twitter, e-mail, blogging, and so forth — all of which are said to herald a new day in human interaction. But let's stick to Facebook as the prime example and admit that, in the end, Facebook actually sabotages our ability to genuinely connect with others. But it is an entertaining saboteur.

Really entertaining. I am writing this on the fifth anniversary of Facebook. The social networking phenomenon began on February 4, 2004, at Harvard University, and within a month, over half of the student body was registered. It was quickly introduced to Stanford and Yale and other Ivy League schools, then to all colleges and universities, and finally to everyone on the planet. Today there are some 90 million active users.

While the popularity of Facebook facilitates broad connectivity, I believe it does so at the expense of intimacy. Intimacy ...

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An Entertaining Saboteur
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February 2009

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