The beginning of the 21st century has opened the doors into extreme technological advancements, as well as the development of so called ‘artificial communication’ though a variety of social networks. Nowadays, people strive to tell the world about their life in TheLiveJournal, Twitter, MySpace, Friendster, CyWorld, etc. (Ellison et al., 2007, p. 1143). But, one of the most widespread social networks is Facebook. Starting first in 2004 as a social network for Harvard students only, it quickly spread into other universities throughout the USA, following then by schools and commercial organizations (Zywica & Danowski, 2008, p.2). According to the authors (2008) it was “the third most popular site on the web in August 2007 with over 22 million unique visitors and over 15 billion pages viewed” (p. 2). According to Authority Directory.com (2012), “currently, Facebook has more than 64 million users that are active on their site, and the site is not limited to the United States, it is worldwide.”
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Each human being has basic needs, which one needs to satisfy to feel a normally functional person. Communication is one of these needs. The popularity, which children and adults are always trying to reach, both online and in a real life, is necessary for satisfying the need for socialization and acceptance by other individuals of the social group. The problem of popularity on Facebook is dual, as it involves the concept of “poor getting richer” and “rich getting richer”.
The researchers Zywica & Danowski (2008) identify the term popularity in two ways: “One way is by the status indicators, such as the number of friends and the length of the wall in Facebook. The second way is by using virtual ethnography techniques to ask opened questions about popularity on Facebook” (p. 2). According to the analysis of Zywica & Danowski (2008), research results of both popular and unpopular Facebook users identify popularity with having a lot of friends. Such findings support the “poor getting richer” hypothesis, as it indicates the compensation of lack of communication in a real life due to the low self esteem and fear for non-acceptance. At the same time, big corporations use Facebook for commerce that is an example of “rich getting richer” hypothesis. The article Facebook popularity is increasing! (2012) leads a pole for the corporations regarding the usage of Facebook resources as a good investment. They advertise the products, sell games, or upgrades, applications for mobile phones, etc. Commerce for the big corporations on Facebook becomes easier and grows in value every day.
There is also another problem with popularity on Facebook. In his article, Stross (2009) talks about the problem of the lack of privacy on Facebook, as well as other similar social networks. He claims that Facebook is not a safe place for exchanging messages, or uploading pictures, as it defies the right for privacy (p. 2). The users of Facebook are under constant threat of becoming a victim of fraud, Internet bullying, identity theft, and other problems.
To conclude, Facebook is considered today the most useable social network among people of all ages. Nonetheless, the popularity of Facebook has both advantages and disadvantages. It is a great possibility to obtain new friends and connections for people with low self-esteem, who lack communication in real life. Also, it is a great way to invest money for a business, or a corporation to buy their shares. However, there is a problem of privacy online. Therefore, users of Facebook should always be aware of such problems that contrast popularity as Internet fraud, bullying, and identity theft.