KATE KENNEDY CULTURE EDITOR
When Rebecca Jones (’14) first moved to London, going on Facebook was the highlight of her day. Even though she usually felt worse after browsing the site, she still looked forward to it every day. “I didn’t like it, but it was all I could do at the time. It was my way of staying where I used to be,” Jones said.
While Facebook can be helpful in a new student’s life, it could also be harmful. Phoebe Merrick (’15) noticed the helpfulness of Facebook as well, but found a difficult side of being keyed into the place that she moved away from. “When I first moved here, I really didn’t like to see all the things that I missed out on, even though it was good to still be in contact with people,” she said.
Their situations illustrate the complexity of the relationship that Facebook has with its users, especially at an international school like ASL. “It sucked to see all the pictures of my friends’ [back home] lives online, and that I wasn’t in them,” Merrick said. “At the same time though, it was the only way I could really be in contact with all of them.”
Merrick and Jones are not the only ones who feel this way. Since he has moved to London this past year, Sixten Jordan (’14) has noticed that Facebook plays a more important role in his life. “It’s so useful to keep in touch with my friends who still live in the place that I’ve grown up, and helpful for getting to know new friends too,” he said.
The relationship that Facebook has with new students at ASL is not stagnant. It evolves with the students as they become more acquainted with living in a new country. “I don’t really care as much [about Facebook] this year since I have my own stuff going on here and seeing the pictures doesn’t really matter to me,” Merrick said.
Students are still dependent on Facebook to some degree because they are unwilling to delete their accounts, as Merrick notes, “I keep my account now so that I can stay accessible to my friends, in case they have a homework question or something.” However, the influence Facebook holds in students’ lives, shifts considerably.
While the positive aspects of Facebook, that it allows students to be quickly and easily connected with their peers, both at school and around the world, remains the same, its negative side changes as students become more integrated within the community in London.
For many students, Facebook is not a source of annoyance because it overexposes the user to his or her old home, but because it is boring and annoying. Harley Williamson (’14), has been at ASL all her life and agrees that while Facebook is helpful for keeping in contact with people who have moved away,
it isn’t hugely important to her. After she logs on she simply thinks, “well, that was just another album of girls drinking.”
Emma Hatheway (’15), while conceding that Facebook can be a source of entertainment at times, thinks that browsing Facebook just isn’t worth the time it consumes. “After I log off Facebook, I’m just like wow, I just wasted two hours,” she said. “I go on way less now that I have a lot of work and things to do, because I can’t waste time like that anymore.”
Not only is Facebook failing to interest its users, but according to many ASL students, it’s starting to become actively annoying through the way that people are using it and things that are posted. Omar Elmasry (’14) is not interested in most of what he sees on Facebook. “I just don’t like being bombarded with other peoples’ social lives,” he said.
Hatheway finds that one of the most annoying things about Facebook is people having conversations through commenting on pictures, “Why can’t you just use the messaging system?,” she said.
Michael Schmeltzer (’15) takes it a step further, saying that not only that the social side of Facebook is annoying, but the gimmicks of the site itself are also irritating. “It sends me requests and things that I’m not very interested in,” Schmeltzer complained.
Facebook’s declining role in ASL students’ lives, although different from student to student, illustrates that Facebook’s popularity is in decline. “I think that the age of Facebook has passed away, and new social media is taking over,” Hatheway said, referring to the rising popularity of Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Although Facebook is declining, it is not yet obsolete. The decline of Facebook is not just significant because it represents the website’s eminent demise, but because it exemplifies the challenge that ASL students and the world have to deal with: Adjusting to life with Facebook and social, with all its ups and downs. It’s presence is decreasing, but still something to contend with.
Although Jones has experienced some of the challenges with Facebook, she still believes, “Just like everything else technology has given us, we have become not only addicted to it, but dependent on it. I know some people are starting to say that people are getting off Facebook, but I can’t see it leaving anytime soon.”