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Last year Khurshid began uploading his pictures to Flickr, a website where anyone can post his photos, view another's and swap comments and critiques. In all, there are more than 320 million photos on Flickr right now, about 200 of which are Khurshid's. He's a shy, polite man, but Khurshid is more than willing to wax romantic about the unifying, globalizing greatness of the Flickr community. "I love the world coming together in one place and just sharing all that's in it," he says. "I feel like I get to see the world like it really, truly is. Not by stereotyping a people or a country."
Even more than blogs or video-sharing sites, Flickr has the power to forge international bonds because it works in an entirely nonverbal medium. In fact, it works almost too well. Lavannya Goradia, a heavy Flickr user in Bangalore, India, finds it to be a bit of a lovefest. "I suppose it's a need to pat each other's backs, but that will always happen on a public forum," she says with a sigh. "I am still waiting for a day when I will get constructive criticism from someone here." As for Khurshid, he judges a picture's quality by its use of light and its spontaneity--"by the fact that one moment later it would have all gone," he says. "If someone can turn the ordinary into a dream, that person to me is a genius."
WHEN MEGAN GILL BROKE UP WITH her boyfriend in November, it wasn't easy, but she gritted her teeth and did the inevitable: she changed her relationship status on her Facebook page. "I knew there would be a flurry of annoying questions about what happened that I didn't want to answer," she says. "But it was the fastest way for it to be over and done with. Besides, if these people are supposed to be your friends, and care about you, then why keep it a secret?"
Gill, 22, a senior at the University of Portland, has a lot of friends--708, according to her Facebook page. Facebook is a social-networking website that has become--for many people, some of whom are even old enough to see R-rated movies--a way of doing what people used to do by gossiping and talking on the phone, but a lot more efficiently and publicly. You can post photos on your Facebook page, personal information, news about yourself, anything at all.
If you want to be Megan's friend or have pretty much any social interaction with her, you're going to want to go through Facebook. She's a double major in special education and English, so she's busy, but she checks in with the site at least twice a day, often 10 times that.
She'll post random updates to her profile just to let everyone know how she is: "Megan is so over first semester," "Megan is bummed about the election results," "Megan is tired of letting people down." As she puts it, "Facebook is my generation's way of picking up the telephone." It also does things the phone can't. "If you want to organize something," Megan says, "it's much simpler to send a message through Facebook than leave 20 voice mails." She doesn't know how anything got done on college campuses before Facebook.