In today's world, freedom of expression also seems to mean freedom
to deceive and ensnare. Sadly we have become conditioned to ignore 'confirmation guarantied by a huissier de justice that we have won a million'. As if it were perfectly normal, we no longer respond to telephone calls or reply to numbers that raise suspicion. We ignore the cheques that await to be claimed. It's the phenomena of 'the boy who cried wolf', but today there are more wolves than ever. Each day we purge our computers of unwanted e-mail publicity that include the dreary, daily loads of special, 'personal' discount offers. Senders of trash mail sent via our anonymous e-mail addresses that we previously thought 'safely impersonal', succeed in obtaining our real names, and by using them, encroach on our privacy even more.

In such a world, Facebook naturally enjoys its popularity. On it's 'face-value', technically and in principle, there's no reason to distrust it. In using Facebook however, what we have to implicitly trust is our own judgement.

The dangerous illusion of Facebook, is the facility with which one can gain 'friends', a bit like collecting Pokemon cards, as kids used to do.
A list virtually as long as one wishes, of names or nicknames of people one doesn't know from Adam. They could represent the complete spectrum of humanity, from good, indifferent, to evil. For all one knows one could be in contact with a serial-killer or a paedophile. This is certainly a good enough reason, especially for the young, never to respond to offers of friendship from unknown people. Enough criminal cases that originated from 'Facebook friendships', have already come to light to sound the alarm bell.

Although Facebook is making efforts to ensure more security and privacy, the danger still remains, that in over denuding oneself and giving away personal information, one allows oneself to become more vulnerable. Manifestly this is particularly risky for young users of Facebook.
A few might even believe that Facebook is a quick way of getting a 'face' - a personality. If so it might suggest a serious lack of self-confidence, and an overestimation of the powers of the computer; as if the experience of actually living, learning and developing has lessened in value and importance thanks to the ever increasing magic of electronic communication and information access. In fact such a naive idea could contribute in creating the inverse effect.

The computer certainly is a fabulous means of communication, and an open access to an inexhaustible supply of information. It saves us a great deal of time, but is obviously, totally subservient to us. It responds to our commands which depend on our individual tastes, aims, ambitions, judgements and requirements.

For private sector professionals, Facebook can be a very useful means of promotion, providing it's used professionally- with the right amount of retenue.

In one's élan to promote oneself and/or one's service or art, one might be tempted to go too far, publicly confiding too much in one's increasing list of 'friends' or 'fans'. The first question should be, how many of these fans would engage themselves seriously to clearly show their sincere support and appreciation?

Before virtually exposing oneself in all respects, surely it would be wiser to first test the sincerity of such 'fans'. In any case one should avoid being over-generous with artistic work, photographs, sounds and images that could easily be downloaded and used, not in support of, or homage to, the author, but for the use and gain of cyber pirates.

Perhaps one should also refrain from exhibiting personal relationships, including those of the family. After all, such relationships are not public property, but by making public shows of them, one is virtually endorsing them as such. And once more, it consists of personal, thus exploitable information.

Regarding just, international causes for freedom, we have seen how Facebook has already proved to have an enormous impact. It has become an invaluable and major means of communication for the oppressed peoples of the world, ('Syrian Revolution 2011' is a good example). It has contributed very positively towards the Arab Spring
in general.
Facebook could be regarded as the world's meeting place. An international point of cultural exchange. Ideally this is a wonderful concept, but we should temper ideals with the realities of our epoch.

Needless to add, sincere, personal sentiments and the practice of veritable charity never need public display. Obviously such sentiments and acts of good-will should never be expressed or carried out for self-promotional interests. Such attempts would tend to cancel themselves out in any case.

Those of us already well endowed with a 'face', might sometimes even prefer to avoid mirrors; whereas the undeterred owners of 'profiles' who persist in overexposing themselves, risk ending up by being relatively faceless..

Opinion and Image conception/montage (with apologies to the Gioconda, Leonardo da Vinci 
and Facebook. With thanks to Wikimedia Commons) © Mirino. July, 2011

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