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Facebook wields immense power today

By Anthony Lauriello     9/28/11 7:00pm

I remember it clearly and vividly, as if it were but a week ago. I was lackadaisically reading class work when naturally I decided to visit Facebook. As soon as my homepage opened I knew something was wrong. The layout I had come to know and appreciate for months had changed yet again. On the left side, I had lists where I could now organize my friend into separate fields and rank like a high school lunchroom in a teen comedy. Above my chat sidebar, itself a new additon this summer, I had a constant newsfeed so I could see what all my internet acquaintances were doing at this very moment. My entire social network would never be the same.

These changes aren't the only ones in store. At F8, the recent Facebook conference in San Francisco, CEO Mark Zurkerberg said Facebook would soon start updating profiles to include "Timeline," a feature which will allow customers to plot their entire lives and social network career.

With recurring frequency ours is being referred to as the "Facebook generation." The '60s had hippies and social protest. The '80s had synthesizers and cocaine. We have comments and likes. We spend hours pouring over the inane status updates scrolling down our newsfeeds looking at pictures of our friends' Saturday nights. This strange website has become as central to our collegiate experience as sleeping through breakfast and racing to finish our homework.

If Facebook is so important, then its frequent changes are not of little consequence. However, we fail to really ponder what they mean. At first we complain, but our protests have far more to do with an affinity to the status quo than of any true substance. We post jokes about "Facebookception: Facebook within a Facebook" and then get on with our Internet lives, watching cat videos and liking our friends' latest statuses.

Slowly but surely Facebook is making itself to be more important in our lives, and it is increasingly becoming the lens in which we see the world. Take Timeline, for example. Having our family photos and memories stored on the Facebook servers could be extremely convenient and allow us to share things with those we love. However, putting such things on the Internet means we lose control over them. The idea of Facebook owning our digital identities is disconcerting to say the least, and ripe for abuse. The internet postings of our lives play a large part in defining ourselves, and soon Mr. Zuckerberg will have even more influence in how we perceive our very identity.

Don't be mistaken. Facebook is a powerful tool with tremendous promise. It was one of the many elements that helped make the democratic uprisings in the Arab Spring possible. We just need to be cautious about exactly how much power it begins to wield in our lives.

Anthony Lauriello is a Wiess College junior and Thresher Backpage editor.

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