By JORDAN IKEDA
It really is a love/hate thing for me. I’ve been both blessed and cursed by its sudden relevance in my life. The way it has slowly infiltrated my daily habits to the point where I fear its use borders on necessity. Some call it a copout form of communication. Others refer to it as social networking. It represents both the next leap in human technological evolution as well as clear proof of the rapid erosion of physical human interaction.
I’m talking about Facebook.
For those unfamiliar with Facebook, it is a social networking website that anyone over the age of 13 can join for free. All one needs is a valid email address. Members can search for friends, send them messages, post pictures and blogs and update personal profiles to digitally share their life story. Content from friends updates whenever they update. It is a collective stream-of-consciousness comprised of everyone in one’s network. And there are over 250 million users worldwide.
Take that William Faulkner.
My love affair with Facebook began a few years ago, when one of my dearest friends decided that he had had enough of Simi Valley and needed to expand his horizons.
Over the past three, four years, he has traveled the globe. He moved to Bolivia and worked there for a while before journeying to South Korea to teach for a year and a half. While there, he went to North Korea, Japan, and China during his breaks. After returning to the states last spring, he spent a week and a half in France visiting a relative. As of last month, he’s back in Bolivia working as the athletic director of a Christian school.
The one constant? Internet access.
While phone conversations can be wonderful, practicality is another matter, especially when dealing with time zones as contrasting as North America and Asia.
So there is great value in a site like Facebook. Especially to me, one who communicates best through the written (or typed) word.
Personally, with Facebook, I have made contact with people that have permeated every stage of my life from childhood friends to former co-workers to family that lives halfway across the world. Two of my other best friends moved to New York, and through Facebook, I can keep abreast of their daily lives without having to physically be there.
But there is a dark side to Facebook as well. The Darth Vader to all this Luke Skywalker I’ve been prattling on and on about.
I call it digital crack, others call it mindless fun.
Mafia Wars was my gateway game, the one that got me addicted. Its beauty is in its simplicity—really a brilliant way for Facebook to log heavy-duty doses of daily web traffic. All it requires is the ability to read and click a mouse. Mafia Wars is a role-playing game with over five million participants where players collect money, weapons and prizes while building up experience by fighting and putting hits out on other players. One builds up his/her mafia by inviting other friends to play as well. The bigger the mafia, the more powerful the player. One can even spend real money to get fake money to buy digital weapons for his/her digital Mafioso.
While it may sound stupid, once hooked, it’s draw is like heroin. My addiction began with me checking the game once a day to fight a few people and do a few jobs. By the end I was checking the game every five, ten minutes and spending that real cash money on fake cash money. I literally had to quit the game cold turkey.
Of course, there are so many other games to choose from. There’s a game where you raise a digital pet. There’s a game where you trick out cars. There’s a game where you create a digital representation of yourself and decorate your digital house and have digital relationships with the digital reincarnations of your real life friends.
My newest addiction is this farm game where I raise digital plants and digital animals. I’m currently growing digital watermelons. The Nisei generation perhaps just let out a collective groan, while those who play these games are trying to hide that stupid grin curling up their lips.
It is an interesting dilemma going forward. As the internet continues to make our world smaller, and thus making communication over greater distances easier, the gap between physical human interaction and personal time spent together is quickly widening.
Fifty years ago, the telephone was probably looked at as a whittling down of relationships to only the sound of one’s voice. Facebook has even done away with that element.
But for me, it has become important to use the benefits that these advances in technology have provided while still keeping with that human element.
For example, Facebook has afforded me the opportunity to reconnect with my younger cousins who are both over a decade my junior. It has served as a common medium. Those stupid games? A fun starting point for bonding.
The hard part, the part where true relationships are built, is grounded in the real world. This week, I plan to have dinner with them, maybe hit the batting cages.
You know, just some old school hanging out.
Jordan Ikeda is the Rafu sports editor. He can be reached at [email protected] Ochazuke is a staff-written column. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.