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NEWS | Wednesday, 02 January 2008

Facebook – what made 2007 the year of viral networking

Around 20,000 of you are probably on it, and have found out spooky things on your friends or had your worst photos tagged on it. By MATTHEW VELLA

According to Google Labs, the Facebook trend on the net for Maltese users suddenly spiked this August and multiplied twofold, three-fold, ten-fold, god-knows-what-fold until December. In a nutshell, Facebook was the technology buzzword of the year and it was no different for the 13,747 users based in Malta.
And that’s just taking those who have signed up to the Malta network. A rough estimate could mean that as many 7,000 to 10,000 more Maltese users are on the world’s fastest growing social networking tool. And some 2,000 of them count themselves as ‘friends’ of singer Ira Losco, making her the undisputed queen of the social networking tool in Malta.
Despite being talked about almost every day in the British newspapers, for its 50 million worldwide members which made it grow faster than MySpace, it rarely featured in the Maltese press. Facebook attracted some 200,000 new users every day and cost British firms a reported 233 million working hours a month as office workers became addicted to using Facebook to communicate with friends instead of actually meeting them. In Malta, it was the government’s IT agency MIITS which decided to put a stop to Facebook on government terminals because of its effects on productivity.
The time-waster of the year also attracted notable names from the political arena – Michael Frendo, Francis Zammit Dimech, George Pullicino, David Agius, and Edwin Vassallo are some Nationalist names. Some Labour figures preferred staying on Hi5, the youngish, proto-networking site. They may soon decide to pull themselves together and join Facebook for its more mainstream, albeit conservative design of pastel blues and whites.
So what do we know from Facebook about the Maltese?
The outright majority don’t list their political beliefs, an indication of the privacy with which political beliefs are jealously guarded. While 71% don’t list what their political philosophy is, some 12% feel comfortable describing it as ‘other’, possibly finding themselves outside the mainstream of political labelling. But the majority of Maltese Facebook users describe themselves as ‘liberal’ (7%), which itself is taken in the debauched, left-leaning American context, although it is likely that the tag attracts supporters of unfettered free market politics. Another 3% say they are ‘moderate’, 2% say they are ‘conservative’ (like those Nationalist politicians with their dinky Facebook profiles), and thankfully just 1% say they are ‘very conservative’ or ‘apathetic’. No anarchists so far.
Unsurprisingly, as love and sex become the hidden hands behind us forgoing our privacy in a bid to find ‘companionship’ over the world wide web, at least one-third (32%) of Maltese users are listed as single, while 17% are in a relationship. Still the majority do not list their relationship status (39%). Proving to be the haunt for many people who are otherwise not committed, only 5% say they are married, and 3% are engaged. On the lower end of the scale, 3% of users list their relationship as being ‘complicated’ – and another 1% confess to being in an open relationship, possibly the spiciest of the lot.
And their favourite films? Undoubtedly Quentin Tarantino, with both Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill coming in the top 10. It reads like a blockbuster mega-million grossing hit-list – replete with drugs, guns, and general violence: Blow, Scarface, Gladiator, and American History X… such is the celluloid DNA of the Maltese Facebook user.


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