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Wed, Nov 16, 2011
The New Paper
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She loves her 5,000 'likes'
by Joyce Lim

With more than 800 million active users, Facebook is undoubtedly the most popular social-networking site today. It has changed the lives of millions, and the way some behave. JOYCE LIM profiles three women whose lives now revolve around it. Is it turning into an obsession?

Offline, she lives a dreary existence serving economical rice at a coffee shop in Clementi.

Online, she is a sensation with more than 10,000 friends and "likes" across three Facebook accounts.

But she doesn't know most of them. She has only some 10 close friends whom she meets regularly.

Online, she is known as Icebabe Kumiko.

Offline, she is Ms Wong Chui Han, a 23-year-old Malaysian who spends more than 12 hours working as a helper at her boyfriend's coffee shop stall.

There, she is sloppily dressed, with no make-up. Like most of her customers, you wouldn't give her a second glance.

But in the virtual world, Ms Wong gets so much attention that she has had to create two Facebook profiles - Icebabe Kumiko (4,691 friends) and Icebabe Kumiko II (325 friends) - as well as a fan page (5,021 fans) to accommodate all her friend requests.

Facebook restricts the number of friends you can have on a page to 5,000. Beyond that, you can create a fan page which has no limit.

Even with three Facebook accounts, Ms Wong still has more than 1,000 friend requests waiting for her acceptance.

What drives these people to want to befriend her?

Her pictures, it seems. Photos of herself that she has uploaded have easily garnered more than 100 "likes", she says.

Her friends and fans also post comments about how they love her big round eyes and sexy body.

Ms Wong thrives on the attention. She checks her Facebook pages every few minutes.

She tells The New Paper on Sunday: "It is the first thing I check when I wake up in the morning. I sleep with my iPhone in my hand.

"Sometimes, even when I am not logged on to Facebook, I find myself creating status updates in my head! I feel the urge to share my thoughts and goings-on in my life with my Facebook friends."

One of her fans, Miss Vivien Tan, 18, tells The New Paper on Sunday: "I find her interesting. She always wears very thick make-up and she posts many sexy photos of herself.

"There is a lot to see in her pages because she updates them so frequently, sometimes every other hour."

The polytechnic student likes to browse through Ms Wong's photo albums on Facebook whenever she is bored at home or school.

"My handphone hung a few times because there are too many photos. Her photo albums have thousands of photos. I always wonder what kind of life she leads."

Because of the intimate photos she posts of herself with her girlfriends, Ms Wong says she is often asked on Facebook if she is a lesbian.

In reality, she lives in a rented double-storey terrace house in Ang Mo Kio with her boyfriend, who, like her, is from Ipoh.

Her life selling economical rice is in stark contrast to her Facebook photos featuring her at parties and in party outfits.

With so many supporters on Facebook, wouldn't her boyfriend's food stall business boom if she reveals on Facebook where she works?

"I don't want them to come to the stall," says Ms Wong, who left her hometown to work here six years ago.

"At work, I don't wear make-up and I don't look good."

Ms Wong, who has two Sundays off every month, goes out to party after work.

She adds that she is often too tired after spending more than 12 hours working in a coffee shop every day.

But all that fatigue melts away the moment she logs on to Facebook and reads the comments from her "friends".

Once, she says, she was feeling bored and wrote "ha ha ha" on her status update. She calls it her most lame post.

But even that sparked a series of responses from her friends.

They responded with "hee hee hee" and "la la la", recalls Ms Wong, who posts in English and finds the responses amusing.

Last month, she uploaded a photo of her new haircut. She had cut her waist-long hair.

That photo generated more than 300 "likes" within a day, says Ms Wong.

Her boyfriend isn't too happy with her obsession, she says. They have had minor tiffs over her long hours on Facebook. He declined to be interviewed.

Ms Wong, who created her first account four years ago after a friend told her about Facebook, does not know how she manages to attract so many people to her pages.

She says: "I do what other girls do. I post lifestyle photos of myself, the food I eat, the new things that I buy. Nothing sensational. I don't post nude photos of myself.

"When I get a friend request, I will accept it because I like to make more friends."

Her friends are from Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Some have asked to meet her in person. When she agrees to meet "friends" alone, she meets only the girls.

"I don't feel safe meeting the guys, unless they are friends of friends and we meet in a group."

Indeed, she has received threats from some of her male "friends" when she refused to meet them.

She deletes such friends to make space for others.

She also plays safe by never giving away her location on Facebook.

Still, she sometimes gets messages from "friends", telling her that she was spotted at a particular place.

Does she feel like a celebrity being stalked?

"No," replies Ms Wong. "I don't think I am a celebrity. Facebook friends 'give me face'.

"I'm just an ordinary girl. There are many more popular girls on Facebook who have even more friends than me."

Whenever she poses in a photo with her friends and tags them on her Facebook page, these friends receive a stream of friend requests from her followers.

Ms Wong says: "Some of my friends do not like such attention and they ask me not to tag them in my photos."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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