A few minutes ago, I approved my 128th “Facebook” pal. Do I hear hurrah? Okay, I do not have to blow my own horn as it is too small a number compared to many other members who probably are growing their list of friends every day, even reaching the cap of 5000. While these “others” have been opening and owning multiple profiles to accommodate newly-found online friends, here I am stuck to my slow-growing barely one-friend-a-month account. But it is understandable, for I have never been a fan of the social network anyway. Hence, accumulating over a hundred of so-called friends may suffice for now.

The birth of my Facebook was triggered by the fact that a number of my American friends are aliens to other social networks, like for instance Friendster. What Facebook and MySpace are to America, Orkut is to India and Brazil, V Kontakte is to Russia, Mixi is to Japan, hi5 is to Mongolia, Skyrock is to France and Friendster is to the Philippines.

Friendster is the viral social networking service that is thriving like crazy in my country. You cannot find a high school or college student who does not maintain a profile. I think the question “Do you have a Friendster?” is so hackneyed that you can brand it as the next important line after “My name is _____, and you are?” In fact, it follows that sequence when meeting a new acquaintance. And it does not matter where – KTV bars, disco houses, sex dungeons and strip clubs, busy sidewalks, jeepney rides – all and sundry is aware that it is the only way to get to know the new person better.

The moment you arrive home, say 2 a.m and dizzy from a few shots of booze, you log-in to your account, send the required invitation and hope for miracles that the he/she is still awake to accept it. You envision the countless doors of opportunities that could open when friendship is started by a mere “accept button” from a social networking site.

So, the other end has just been waiting all along. Where: best guess is at the windowpane. What: staring at a rare comet and simultaneously entertaining the thought of you being hit by it. Why: so you would come into your senses and remember that there was this sing-along bar called Comet and there was this person you had asked for a social bookmarking profile.

The profile shows that the person is associated to your friend’s friend’s friend. More revelations appear when you scour at the tabs: info, photos, and wall. Then you leave a message on the wall. Then you share childish applications or add-ons that, needless to say, look spammy, messy, and annoying (who needs a specialized astrology widget, by the way?) There are few instances when your animalistic urges prevail and you hope you will come across some revealing photos. In all likelihood you will be disappointed to see only full-body shots from some winter vacations, the time of the year when two-piece garments are a no-no. Despite the few insignificant frustrations, you are just contented of exchanging videos and cute applications. The story of you and the person you first met at the bar has begun.

Students choose to bleed their brains dry over their virtual parchment. The social networking has already become part of the daily routine. Be it at the Union or the library or inside the classroom or even at unexpected places like the toilet, checking the whereabouts of online friends is almost always the icing on the cake on a rather regular day. Facebook, Friendster, MySpace or Orkut will always be the cubbyhole that mom and dad do not have pure jurisdiction over what you do.

There may be downbeat reports about online social networking, but that is minor when you look at the positive factors the service is bringing in. You can start and build an online community. You can interact more with friends, find long-lost loved ones and network with those who share your interests. Social networking is a conversation and not just a plain IM chat or an archaic IRC-style chat room.

Before you log-in to your accounts and check-out your friends, you may want to give this a thought: Be my 129th “Facebook” pal.

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