Wed 2 Jul 2008
Chinese language version of Facebook
A little more than a week after the launch of the simplified Chinese Facebook site, users all across China, including yours truly, are reporting that they are unable to access Facebook. Having had to endure the Great Firewall of China for over five years now, I am quite familiar with the slight of DNS error technique that can be observed in the status messages at the bottom of the Firefox browser when attempting to access the typical blocked site, and the phenomenon is definitely observable when attempting to access Facebook. The interesting thing is that I have seen similar errors on and off for the past couple of months. Usually just closing the instance of the browser and opening a new one will fix it, but not today. This time it appears it may be for keeps. Or not. It is never a simple task to attempt to predict how the censor goons will behave.
I suppose I should question why it would really bother me so much that Facebook is blocked. I am actually surprised at how accustomed I have become to the social network, to the point that I would definitely feel deprived if I was unable to access it. Compare this with my first social networking site, Tribe, that I have pretty much abandoned after spending hours a day every day for months on end. What is it I wonder? I believe the difference is that a good number of my friends on Facebook are my real flesh and blood friends, rather than mere Internet-only “friends”, although I have a fair number of those as well. Somehow, I enjoy the news feed that keeps me updated on the goings on of my circle of friends, without having to actually meet them and and talk to them to find these things out. Is this progress? I wonder. Certainly the amount of “flesh time” I spend with most of my Facebook friends is relatively low, so, is it right that I am so up to date on their goings on? Well, actually, I rarely follow the stories in the news feed, but I do find it far more interesting than the news offered by, say, CNN, and, in fact, many of the most interesting stories I find on the Internet these days are from links posted by friends on Facebook.
Facebook is many things to many people. To me, it sometimes seems like little more than the ultimate stalking utility. Yet, I have exchanged some of the most meaningful philosophical conversations of my life here as well, although, Tribe is really hard to beat on that front. So, the bottom line is… Why block it? Is it really that subversive? Who knows? I just hope that like Wikipedia, the blockages will come and go. But mostly go. Facebook through a proxy is tedious in the extreme.