Facebook, who need it when you've got Orkut, V Kontakte, Mixi, QZone, Xing, and Zing in the world? Because if you live in Brazil, Russia, Japan, China, Germany or Vietnam, you're still not owned by Mark Zuckerberg - not yet anyway. In fact, in China, Facebook is blocked, not as much as people might think because FB represents some sort of "freedom of speech" idea, but more because the Chinese are less than stupid and with a billion/five consumers would like as big a piece of that capitalist pie as they can get - and the thought control of course. Ok, Ai Weiwei's got a Facebook account, that's why it's blocked. Not.
Here in Vietnam, rumors of Facebook's death have been greatly exaggerated according to The Economist
. If the government claims not
to be be blocking the site, then a thousand teeny tiny fire-breathing dragons who live in the central highlands are and that's not stopping anyone. Through a simple DNS number switch or a more involved proxy server connection, any self respecting high school kid knows how to keep his friends close and his enemies closer by logging in daily.
Our Facebook mystery resurfaced last Saturday when after nearly 5 months of blockage, having to connect through a proxy server, it finally just hooked up through my regular connection and voi la! I had all the sophomoric, self pumping or just plain seemingly stoned conversations back on my desktop - just as I remember them happening in the halls of my American high school. "Yo! Long time, no see bro!"
I had forgotten just how insipid most of the crap on FB really is. Should I have more than three beers, I just have to pinch myself to not be flaming back at some of the ridiculous shit I have to read through. Seriously. FB makes Twitter look like a Mensa affiliate sometimes. Working through a proxy is less than fast or efficient in this country so I had limited myself to once-a-week Sunday sessions on Facebook for the last month, and do you know what? I didn't miss it a bit. In fact, I rather enjoyed not lowering myself into the FB pit on a daily basis. But now it's back. And my legion of friends with it. "Yo! Long time, no see bros!"
To many, Facebook has all the intimacy of a phone book and the reason the sites above remain viable - they somehow corral the audience closer to themselves - reducing the ubiquitousness of our online lives. If I woke up on yet another of Howard Camping's rapturous days and didn't have Facebook, the world certainly wouldn't be coming to much of an end for me. While the FB number of users continues to climb upwards of 600,000,000 just remember - that still leaves roughly 6 billion 400 million more, who will still wonder, "Who needs it?"
Postscript: At posting of this story, Facebook has now been blocked again in Vietnam. Back to the proxy!