James Rockas ’08 As he logged on to the social networking site, James Rockas ’08 admitted that he might be considered an “avid Facebooker.” “I log on at random times,” Rockas said. “Usually when I’m doing homework…to take a break.” However, during vacations his Facebook activity is not so restrained. “During vacation, Facebook game marathons occur,” Rockas said cryptically. Although he often uses Facebook to communicate with friends, Rockas employs most of his time on Facebook gaming on various Facebook applications. Popular Facebook games include Scrabulous, an online version of Scrabble that attracts 721,785 daily active users. Jetman, another commonly added application in which the user navigates a jet packing figure through a cave, has 146,758 daily active users. Rockas explained that he never had an account on the other popular networking site MySpace, because he did not appreciate that “people would spend hours [modifying] their page.” MySpace users can customize their pages by adding music, extra features and background images. “Facebook is more of a social networking site, where the focus is on conversation,” said Rockas. “People aren’t going on the internet for hours, searching for the right background for their MySpace page.” Rockas also enjoys the intimacy of Facebook, explaining, “There is something to be said about being focused on your school.” However, Rockas lamented that the community aspect of Facebook has deteriorated with increasing numbers of Facebook users. Though he admitted that the website “reduces productivity,” Rockas asserted that he is not addicted to Facebook. But one ugly tenet of addiction is denial. “I probably spend more time fiddling with my iTunes account and library than I do on Facebook,” he said. Rockas proved he had the ability to focus intently on his work—as he became engrossed in researching Turkey for his history class, he ceased to answer questions about Facebook polysyllabically. Menelik Washington ’09 Even though Menelik Washington ’09 has a Facebook account, he called himself “a big AIM [AOL Instant Messenger] person.” Washington spends his time on AIM because he likes its dynamic nature, far closer to live conversation. He said, “[AIM]’s a conversation, not me writing on someone’s wall and waiting anywhere from 30 seconds to 4 days [for a response].” Washington said that he only logs on to Facebook “to see if someone has something to say to me.” He also keeps a MySpace account, in order to stay in contact with some of his friends from home. However, Washington only checks his MySpace account about once per month, because “MySpace is full of viruses, weirdos and more viruses.” Washington appreciates the relative tranquility of Facebook, though he said that like MySpace, it is being inundated with members. But Washington is “not one to hide who I am, even on the internet,” so he is unconcerned about the growing numbers on Facebook. Washington said he does “not really like” the numerous Facebook applications, aside from the Jetman game and the Honesty Box application. The anonymous comments of the Honesty Box are occasionally extremely amusing, said Washington. Fay Gao ’07 Fay Gao ’07, now a freshman at Boston University, said that her Facebook usage has not changed significantly since graduating from Phillips Academy. Gao said that college is “pretty similar to Andover” in terms of Facebook use, and that both student populations use the site for “informal communication.” She speculated that the Facebook experience might be different in boarding schools and day schools, because boarding school students spend more time in close proximity to one another. According to Gao, although Facebook is “more of a daily usage thing…[the] equivalent to shooting an email,” the networking site is not the ideal way to carry on a conversation. As an upperclassman at Phillips Academy, Gao lived in Morton House, a seven-girl dorm. Now that a larger number of her friends live in her college dorm, she uses her “phone and feet more often.” Ultimately, said Gao, Facebook can be extremely useful if a student “can control it” and have a “healthy life, hanging out with friends in real life” and not just communicating via the internet. April Liang ’11 April Liang ’11 does not have a Facebook account and does not intend to get one any time soon. Nor does Liang have a MySpace, a Xanga blog or AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). “What’s the point,” she said, “if you see [your friends] every day in school?” The only Internet application she uses is Skype, an online calling service. Liang sometimes uses Skype to contact her family, who live in Shanghai, China. Liang uses email to communicate with her friends over break. Liang said that email is “much more personal. It’s more private than Facebook, because not everyone can read the message.” Detached from the Facebook obsession, Liang admitted that she feels left out “quite a lot.” But she is making a conscious and willing choice, “isolating myself.” “If,” she added, “it’s really isolation.” Liang said that Phillips Academy students’ fascination with Facebook is sometimes “kind of silly.” She recalled an instance when one of her friends changed the date of a friend’s birthday on Facebook, who then received numerous birthday wishes throughout the day. “Responsible use is good,” Liang ceded, “but I still wouldn’t use it … Sometimes [Facebook] would be a distraction.”
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