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The Facebook Generation - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Are we living under a rock, or are they ahead of their time? I am talking about the half a billion people who are members of Facebook. This is a relatively young website which has just celebrated its sixth anniversary, and today has more members than the total number of adults in the largest country in the world. This is a gathering place the likes of which the world has never seen, for in the past the potential for communication and migration was limited to just a few million people. Can we possibly be witnessing the birth of a new generation, culture, and way of living with regards to this website and others like it that are hosting millions upon millions of the human race?

I consider myself to be one of the first people to have dealt with the digital culture, and this was even before the appearance of the “Apple Mac”, and today I have discarded what remained of my inflexibility [with regards to digital technology]; registering, participating, and co-existing – or at the very least trying to keep pace – with the Facebook and Twitter generation. I have become a member of the digital community. However just two years later, I am finding it difficult to give up traditional living. I am a frequent visitor to Starbucks, and so I like to use my five senses to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste…however on Facebook it is impossible for anybody to know if the person they are interacting with is even a human being. One cannot know if the person is using their true name, or if that is really a picture of them, whilst the emotions they express are nothing more than emoticons [textual expression representing face or mood of the writer]. This is a paradoxical world where there is both openness and fraud; I am used to dealing with people in real life from seeing them, rather than reading about them. With all respect to planet Facebook, which is the most popular social networking site in the world, and the second most popular website, I feel that this is truly a virtual world that is far removed from real life, despite its unrivaled status as the most transparent and liberal and open social networking website.

How did the world become connected to these digital planets this quickly? There is a place for everybody on the internet according to their own personal interests. For example the internet brings together children as young as ten on the website “Weeworld” [an avatar-based social game] as well as genuine real-life scholars on genealogy websites.

I think we need to reassess our view of this [virtual] world. Huge numbers of people are today living [in these virtual worlds] away from their normal daily lives. These new generations are living in another world [in comparison to previous generations], for what is Facebook other than another [digital] planet that we cannot even see with traditional telescopes?

We are facing a new deluge of virtual worlds, and there is no option but to engage with these. My greatest fear is that we will end up like the film “The Matrix” as this illustrates a lot about our near future of a world where humanity is connected by wires to a virtual reality.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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