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Mira Sucharov

 
MIRA SUCHAROV GOT IT RIGHT: FACEBOOK AS A TOWN SQUARE

by Mira Sucharov, written 2008, reposted with Editor's note October 9, 2011

Editor's note: Mira sucharov was ahead of her time when she sent me the article she wrote about Facebook in 2008, that was titled "Facebook as a Town Square." At the time I  remember thinking [as I  still do] that Facebook was not necessarily such a good thing.

I worried that  this generation of children would become so addicted to facebook that they would forget how to take time to enjoy the outdoors, spend time in face to face interaction, engage in the art of conversation (off line), read books, and would become more and more addicted to facebook relationships, instead of 'real' relationships.

As an editor of this e-paper I can't tell you how many times a week I have to  quarrel with my children about letting me use my  own computer to work on this publication instead of  them being able to check their facebook messages. Since they are  age 12 and 13, it is difficult for me to fathom that that my children are facing "life and death" facebook messages that they absolutely have to retreive now instead of  aday or two later. No matter how many computers or laptops we aquire, it never seems to be enough to satisfy their facebook appetites. In fact, on our family vacation, when we let our two children go on facebook as they pleased without restricting its usage, we barely managed to leave our apartment--one of the two always wanted just a "few more minutes" on facebook before they were ready to go out.  Finally, on the second week of the vacation, we took away their facebook access--and made them give up their ipods.  It was a very smart move that I do not in any way regret. The vacation was much much better--we were able to get out to the beach, enjoy the outdoors, be active,  see more friends, and get into a suitable schedule, something that couldn't happen when our children  were up in the wee hours of the night in their beds with their ipods hidden under the sheets talking on facebook to their friends.

Notwithstanding my ongoing concerns about facebook, as the  Jewish year 5772 begans, I will certainly give Mira Sucharov full credit for predicting back in 5769 [corresponding to 2008] that facebbok would in fact become the new "Town Square."  Sucharov was on the mark-unquestionably.  In 5771, we definately witnessed the power of facebook as a tool that has produced revolutionary change--especially in the Middle East. The protest movement in Egypt which was powered by facebook turned out  to have changed the world, and will continue to d so, in ways that few of us could have imagined.  Facebook has become a town square--in Egypt it became "Tahrir Square" and  the ability of any repressive regime to squelch freedom of expression in the days of facebook has become severely limited.

In Israel, this past year Prime Minister Netranyahu actually posted his salary stub on facebook[ Netanyahu disclosed on Facebook that he earned 15,000 shekels ($4200) a month by posting his government pay stub which showed his gross income as 43,952.29 shekels a month, with deductions of 24,445.82 in various taxes.The explanation posted on Netanyahu's official Facebook page stated that "due to web surfer's requests, Netanyahu decided to reveal his monthly pay slip as is, in full transparency."The online disclosure came as Israeli politicians and lawmakers were advocating a pay raise].

In recognition of Sucharov's dubbing of Facebook as 'A Town Square', I  have chosen to begin the Jewish new year 5772 by reprinting her article "Facebook As A Town Square" in full.

FACEBOOK AS A TOWN SQUARE

by Mira Sucharov, 2008

Website helps build the community we are so sorely missing.

My friends and family (including my four-year-old daughter) know that I'm a Facebook addict. Now, no addiction is good as far as it goes, but I'd like to make the case for why I'd like you to join Facebook, if you haven't already.

Facebook, the social networking site created by a Harvard University student in 2004 for his classmates and which is now open to the world, today boasts more than 100 million users, five times as many as when I signed up two years ago. At that time, I discovered 10 people I knew on the site, one of which was the son of my summer camp cook – a boy I knew at eight years old and who is now a university graduate in his twenties; others being my younger cousins. Two years later, I have more than 400 Facebook "friends," ranging in age from 13 to 89. The total rises, as I add colleagues or cousins or old student-council schoolmates, and falls if people's postings become too sophomoric or otherwise offensive to my sensibilities.

Now, most people know that Facebook is an effective tool for reconnecting with old classmates and being able to display one's evolved, post-high school self, but what I think is a less-discussed aspect of the site is the sense of traditional community it fosters.

For this writer, who desires a more global village in this disconnected postmodern world of ours, more community – where people keep track of one another – is a good thing.

Long before the telecommunications revolution, people congregated in the town square, sharing personal news and events from farther afield. Recall the scene in Fiddler on the Roof, where a group of villagers, one wielding a Russian newspaper, tell Tevye about nearby pogroms. Since the rise of what Benedict Anderson has called "imagined communities," created through the invention of the printing press, more people have had access to the news, and generations of kids were able to afford a record collection by delivering the morning paper to people's breakfast tables.

But then the technology revolution happened, coupled with the rise of the automobile and the creation of suburbs, and people converged at work but spent their leisure hours at home. Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone catalogues the decline of communal recreational activities and the subsequent atrophying of civic identity. Add to that family obligations, keeping people with kids at home or in the car – driving older children to their activities – and fewer people have time to socialize – in person – with their friends.

Enter faxes, cell phones, e-mail and then Facebook – at first meant to tie undergraduates to each other and create more community in what is sometimes an alienating first-time-away-from-home campus experience. Broadened to include the world at large, it became a tool for sharing perceptions and personas, and cultivating artistic and intellectual outlets.

My almost brother-in-law is a talented recreational photographer whose photographs I would otherwise rarely see, hesitant as he would be to send them directly, for the potential hubris implied. However, when I log on to my "home feed," I see his postings, replete with a discussion of the technical process that led to his inspiring creations. I often comment and ask for more.

My husband and a distant cousin of mine in California trade urgent political missives on Facebook, which is remarkable, since they have only met for maybe 30 seconds at a family wedding and pro

 
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