Culture According to Me, With a Lil’ Help from Facebook
By Dustin Enrique Larsen
What is the definition of culture? Better yet, what is my definition of culture? When contemplating this I found that the best way to construct a definition of my own was to base it on the definitions of others, and to do this I would have to channel the great Dr. Frankenstein, or at least Heidi Montag’s plastic surgeon. Every definition I came across I would dissect the piece that I found most appealing and cut away the fat and discard it. After I had gathered a heaping pile of bits of definitions, which alone were no more attractive than that of random human limbs, I then strung them all together creating a definition that was indeed unique to me.
When searching for definitions on the Internet, I began my journey at none other than Dictionary.com. Many definitions were present, but there were two that really stood out. One such definition was "the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc." After cutting away all the fat, the definition basically said: a quality (from any area in that particular society) found in a person that is seen as excellent and is then praised. Another definition that stood out was "the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture" Subtract the fat and you get: behaviors/beliefs/characteristics that are common throughout, and in part, define a group. After sewing all the favored pieces together and adding some meat of my own, I arrived at my definition of culture. Culture: the behaviors/beliefs/characteristics that are common throughout, and in part, define a group. These behaviors/beliefs/characteristics are at the same time unique to the individuals in the group. Within these groups there are then qualities (from any area in that particular society) found in an individual that are seen as excellent and are then praised.
Now, how does my definition apply to a cultural phenomenon? In order to answer this question I first had to find a cultural phenomenon that I wanted to link my definition to. When brainstorming ideas for possible phenomenon, I kept finding myself becoming distracted with the social networking site Facebook. I found myself wanting to spend my time updating my profile and surfing other people's profiles rather than completing this article. I then realized that I probably wasn't the only student feeling this way about a task they weren’t exactly thrilled about. Then it hit me. What is a better cultural phenomenon than Facebook that is influencing Americans at this very moment?
In order to apply Facebook to my definition, it needs to be compared to it in pieces. The first part of my definition states: the behaviors/beliefs/characteristics that are common throughout, and in part, define a group. These behaviors/beliefs/characteristics are at the same time unique to the individuals in the group. Facebook helps define our generation as the "technology generation" We have grown accustomed to doing everything using technology. Technology has influenced our school assignments, our shopping, and now has become the focal point of our social lives. Facebook is an environment where people can come to together and interact with people of similar behaviors/beliefs/characteristics. People search through others' profiles and find people with similar interests, and if desired, begin a relationship with them. A person's profile not only lets them find similarities in others, but also helps them define themselves as individuals. The management of the profile is completely up to the owner. They have complete control over the style of the page to the point where they choose the pictures and multiple other features that will be included on their profile.
The second half of my definition states: Within these groups there are then qualities (from any area in that particular society) found in an individual that are seen as excellent and are then praised. Facebook has allowed itself to be used as a venue for people to express and inform others of their excellent qualities and experiences. Others are then given the opportunity to leave comments "praising" an individual for these unique qualities. People can also write notes about their unique experiences, and others can give them a “thumbs up," or, praises for their accomplishments or insights into society.
Therefore, Facebook is a cultural phenomenon because it allows people to be individuals while at the same time helps one find a commonality in others, thus defining and developing a culture. It then allows people within those common groups to praise one another for their unique abilities and experiences, thus bringing them closer together as a culture.