As of June 30 2011, there were 82,720 Malawians on Facebook and 716,400 people were using the internet in Malawi representing 4.5% of the population. This shows how much people are using the social networking site. Gone are the days when you could sign up on Facebook using a fake name or a fake account because it is proving to be a vital networking tool to the thousands of Malawians using it. You will only be left out if you decide to use a false account. Your profile is the first thing that impresses a friend you are trying to connect with. I got a friend request from someone calling himself, Wasuta Chamba Banda and another one Kunyenga Kunyenga, i immediately ignored those requests because i don't want such people on my timeline and they are not real.
Many people are using the information we post on our profiles to assess and analyze various aspects of our lives. In fact i usually check the profiles of people who comment on my posts or in the other groups i have joined. I have a special group of people whom i value the comments they make because they contain substance. Reputable companies are getting information of their employees on Facebook, people are finding marriages and other important relationships on the site. Business deals, promotion of events, advertising are all being done faster and free of charge on Facebook. One might argue that LinkedIn is better placed to do this but Facebook is commonly used in Malawi than LinkedIn.
I know of some people who still refuse to open accounts on Facebook calling it a satanic tool and yet many more lives are transformed, encouraged and inspired on this very site. It is a debate which i don't like to to take part simply because i have a conflict of interest being a christian in the technology field.
It is very important to be honest with whatever you are posting on Facebook and other internet sites because it reflects on who you are. I have made friends from many corners of the world through what i have been posting on the internet. Several people have traveled from their places to pay me a visit in Malawi when we only met on Facebook or Twitter. I have been asked to give an opinion on many projects to be done in Malawi because my readers know that i am on the ground because of what i have on my profile. Even my pictures are real giving confidence to those who follow me. There is no way Vincent Kumwenda can have a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo as a profile picture!
We are living in a world that values knowledge so it is important to share everything you know. These social networking sites gives us that platform to share knowledge. It also gives us a chance to interact with friends we have missed for a long time, who are far away. We cannot always afford to call them, all we can do is to drop them an email in their inbox or post on their wall. We can also update them on what is happening by posting pictures and videos. I have communicated with friends in many districts by simply posting pictures on my wall.
Facebook, though, does not replace face to face relationships. I am one of the people who is more talkative online but am not a good friend when it comes to real chatting, but i try to adjust to live a real life. At some point people were complaining that i spend much time with my smart phone than with the friends, but am now adjusting. I still have my phone everywhere i go and will always jump on the chance to reply and email, update my status or comment on someone's status. Friends at some point even feared that i will post everything they said on Facebook.
Too much of posting is also dangerous and can read to people using your information to your disadvantage. In advanced societies, thieves use location based sites, like Foursquare and Facebook Places to track down their targets. They can use your status updates to plan a robbery at your place, steal your car or other things. Hackers ca also have access to your sensitive information. They can easily access what you have posted willingly or get access to your computers and steal important information.
Oppressive governments tend to gather information on the internet to track down its opponents. Am yet to read or hear of someone who has been arrested in Malawi for posting on Facebook about the current regime. However we are not to rule out this possibility in the coming days. Even us bloggers are getting ready for huge censorship in the coming days. As of now Malawians are free to voice out their concerns through their status updates, comments and posting in groups that have been created on Facebook.
For now, you will enjoy real time chat on Facebook if you choose to be yourself.