Facebook Anyone?

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Update: Facebook Anyone is a popular article about Facebook in China

Facebook, one of the most popular websites in the world, is blocked in China. It was suddenly blocked in August 2009, when riots had broken out in XinJiang province, and it has remained blocked to this day. Several reasons come to mind as to why internet censorship authorities would like to prevent people from accessing Facebook: First, RenRen.com, a Chinese website which is very similar to Facebook, is currently gaining popularity, and it has more than 160 million active users in China; Blocking Facebook helps RenRen grow. The second and possibly the main reason is the significant role Facebook has played in the Arab world riots that have been taking place recently. Unblocking Facebook, it seems, remains a viable threat in the eyes of policy makers.

Many western countries criticize the decision to censor the internet, and they are right in that websites such as Facebook contribute greatly in networking, in expressing freedom of speech and in connecting people from all over the world. Yet, while websites such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are blocked and while there have been occasions that the websites of The New York Times and of Linked-In were blocked as well, one has to wonder about the value that a website such as Facebook creates for the internet users community, which is increasingly growing world wide.

According to Nielsen.com, a global leader in research and information, Facebook is becoming one of the most popular websites on the web. On February 2010, Nielsen.com conducted a survey and inquired how many hours does the average American internet user spend on Facebook every month. The result: The average American user spends more than 7 hours each month on Facebook. Out of 203 million Americans who surf the web, more than 116 million use Facebook. Given that the population of the United States is estimated at roughly 311 million people, one can calculate that approximately 37 percent of the population in the United States uses Facebook.

These data indicate that 116 million people are spending an average of 7 hours less a month on working, studying or contributing to society in any other way. (The number of monthly hours spent on Facebook has probably risen in the past year, yet newer data is unavailable)

Facebook Anyone?

Chinese students have recently demonstrated that hard work pays off. In the most recent PISA examination (the Program for International Student Assessment), students in Shanghai surprised experts by outscoring their counterparts in dozens of other countries in reading, in math and in science. Although the test does not reflect, by any means, the academic level of students from the rest of China, it does reflect the level of a part of China that is becoming more meaningful and relevant in the global playing field: These are students with which foreigners will have to compete for jobs.

The results of the PISA examination represent a culture that puts great emphasis on learning and on spending more time on studying rather than on other extra curricular activities. In a previous post, Running in your Sleep, I wrote about the relentless path Chinese students of all ages go through and about the cost that this type of lifestyle endures. This type of lifestyle, however, collides with statistics published in August 2010 which clearly indicate that China is the biggest internet market in the world with more than 420 million active users (U.S is ranked second with 239 million users).

It seems, therefore, that young adults are able to maintain a strict level of balance between studying and using the internet; This balance is crucial for China as it develops and further depends on the ability of people to rise above foreign competition. In China, the time that people save from not using Facebook is generally not invested in extra curricular activities as it may in the west but rather in studying, working or creating value for the economy.

Share your thoughts: Do you think that blocking Facebook helps Chinese students succeed? How much is Facebook a distraction in your life?

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About the Author

Lior Paritzky is the Editor in Chief and Manager of Laowaiblog, an internet platform that provides opinion and views about social phenomena in modern China. Look for Lior on Twitter: Liorpari