14 November 2011

Some Days, I Hate Facebook


I think it has taken over the world. Or maybe Google has, I'm not sure. Both the words 'Google' and 'Facebook' fill our daily conversations in the US.

What has surprised me is how much both fill my days here in Uganda as well. And I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is a beast.

The past several weeks have been filled with questions about Facebook before students leave for their holiday. They want to set up accounts, upload pictures, find a few more friends, delete photos. I even taught two workshops on setting up and using Facebook before finals last week.

Don't get me wrong. I use Facebook regularly. As an information professional, I am well aware that Facebook is a primary electronic communication tool. We discuss it as librarians: whether or not to make pages for our libraries, how to use it to reach out to students, how to incorporate it into learning, etc., etc. It's clearly an important part of our daily lives as we communicate in a global village. I've tried this semester to see the bigger picture and to use Facebook as a way to teach information literacy. But sometimes it get's overwhelming.

Again, Facebook is a beast.

I mean, think about it. How do you explain what a status is to someone who has never used Facebook before? Or what about: wall, newsfeed, tagging, message, events, pages, like, profile, profile picture, etc.? Not to mention all the privacy and account settings that are available.

SO MANY students want to 'set up The Facebook,' as they say. I am at my wits end trying to figure out how to best go about this and still get other things done in the library. Because I'm wondering how helpful those workshops actually were.

On the one hand, I so desperately want the library to be a source of information. I want the students to ask questions. I want to be able to explain privacy to them [No, being friends with people you have never met is not a good idea]. I want to empower them with communication tools. I want them to learn to use computers and this is a fun way for them to learn. I want them to be comfortable with technology. BUT where do you draw the line?

As a cross-cultural worker I am so hesitant to do anything that will change the culture in which I work. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to do things that are as culturally relevant as possible. I want what I do to supplement the culture within I work but not change it. But let's face it, in many ways Facebook is geared for the West. Yes, people here value community. And, yes, Facebook is about 'community'. But so much of how Facebook is designed is for the ridiculously instantaneous and 'connected' culture of the West. For example, a status is what you are doing NOW...how does that translate to a student who will go back to his or her village and check email/Facebook once or twice a week?

The world is changing. The way we communicate is changing. The internet is big. How do we take these tools to new cultures? How do implement and teach them in ways that are actually useful? How do we take Westernized technology and make it culturally relevant? Where do you draw the line? Am I a bad librarian if I spend time showing someone how to set up Facebook instead of teaching them online databases?

At this point I have more questions than answers.

*Note: this post was written after a particularly long day of Facebook questions. I may feel differently next week when the students have all left for holiday and I am alone in the library working on cataloging. :)


  1. I can imagine how difficult it must be, but I love your reflections, Rachel!

  2. Not to mention that Facebook has become a tool where some go overboard with the narcissism - something we don't want to encourage, right? Sure, it's fun sometimes to brag about this 'n that but Facebook can sometimes be "me, me, me" and less about how it treats our fellow man. It's a Catch 22 - I can see your dilemma...

  3. @Becca: Thanks! It's crazy sometimes but I guess if you see each day as a learning opportunity or bit of humor it's not so bad. :)

    @Sarah: Exactly! What a funny world we live in!