What makes us human? While philosophers continue to contemplate this question and explore what we all hold in common as they have for thousands of years, another aspect of the human condition that binds nearly all of us has appeared: Facebook.
Within the past decade, Facebook has seemingly become a cornerstone of life in the developed world. According to Facebook's site, it reached the 500 million-member mark in November 2010, and within less than a year, it reached the 800 million-member mark. That's more than 10 percent of the world's population. Facebook grows at a rate of 100 million new users per every 150 days or so.
According to the New York Times, nearly 70 percent of all Americans are active Facebook users, and the likelihood that a majority of a person's friends have active accounts is relatively high. The average youth today seems to live out his or her existence on Facebook. Apparently, living in front of an electronic box is more satisfying than the rewarding, interpersonal relationships to be gained from immersion in a social setting.
Doesn't the all-encompassing pervasiveness of Facebook strike anyone as slightly disturbing? Facebook claims to "offer people a meaningful, fun and free way to connect" with friends. It is, however, a business - a business that only cares about giving its services in exchange for user privacy and the opportunity to present users with ads with almost no relevance to their daily lives in hopes they'll flash their money. Essentially, Facebook sells information to advertisers, though this is nothing new. Many continue their affairs with Facebook in blissful ignorance. Meanwhile, Facebook continues not only to connect friends, but also to connect users' wallets and information with advertisers.
A new movement recently has arisen from a tiny fraction of America's youth: those who willingly choose to forgo Facebook. Tired of the "virtual clutter" of their lives, these brave young men and women almost seem to be exploring a new, yet familiar, frontier a world without Facebook. A world in which the statement, "We're friends," needs not be clarified with either "on Facebook" or "in real life." A world in which a bad hair day remains a private affair. If an existence without Facebook seems too difficult to bear, perhaps it's time to take an inventory of life. Perhaps it's time to disconnect.