Monday, July 06, 2015

DeFace(book)ing My Life

Part of the outcome of Input Deprivation and Quietly Disappearing has been the slow fact that my life is becoming deFacebooked.

It happened almost by accident:  I woke up one morning and suddenly felt no urge to stop by there. The  incessant need to make a daily post - even if was an inspirational one - went away as well.

It is an odd thing, to suddenly stop doing something that has been part of your life for a long time (7 years, in my case).  At first it feels very odd indeed:  one has to fight the constant urge to go back and check in and see what is going on or post the latest thing that has occurred.  And then, over time, one finds that the "need" is there less and less, that time previously dedicated to Facebook has become swallowed up in other things (some might argue, the actual fact of living).

Why?

Facebook has become a great tool in the ebbing of discourse and human relationships.

(Well, that seems pretty expansive.  Care to explain?)

Facebook's great appeal is that you can become connected with almost anyone anywhere - a sort of mini-Star Trek United Federation of Planets where everyone interacts on a sort of giant spacestation. And initially, it is quite a heady thing:  one can find friends long disappeared or make new friends half a globe away.  The promise of technology, I suppose.

But what one comes to realize is that beyond social applications ("Look at this amusing Internet print!  My child's tooth has fallen out!") very little of actual import gets done there.  As with the Internet in general, it shares the fact that it is not a forum where intellectual debate happens or the important issues of life get resolved - in fact, it sort of functions as a sort of agora where the demos rules by volume, not by well thought out arguments.

The second - and perhaps more pernicious - item is the fact that is has pretty much completely debased the word "Friend".  A friend, at one time, was someone with whom one shared a relationship or interest, something that grew over time into a thing of joy and preciousness.  Now, that word has been reduced to "Send Friend Request" and then one ends up with hundreds and hundreds of "Friends".  It is as if we have completely short-circuited the process of relationship in the need to make connections as quickly as possibly.

A third point - perhaps the most alarming - is that, like all other private entities, it controls the environment in which it operates.  It makes the rules.  Again, following my cardinal rule of no politics or religion, I will simply say that Facebook does not operate as the free marketplace of ideas.  It is, rather, a connection site where certain ideas or concepts are discussed and others are not.  That is their right after all:  it's a business and they control it and I (when I was there more frequently) was using their Terms of Service just as I would not start singing "O Canada" in the midst of a fine restaurant.

It does mean, though, that I might choose not to dine there in the first place.  Because mistaking a restaurant for a place where one can express one's musical talent is a foolish thing.

I am not sure where this all ends up.  The reality is that I have made friends through the site (true friends by shared common interests) and it is a handy way to update pictures for family and friends far away - so it has a certain utility.  And certainly there are ways to control the flow of information (although my Luddite tendencies may prevent me from making the effort to learn).

Perhaps my mistake in the first place was grabbing the idea of Facebook as if it were a pair of wire cutters and believing that I could do much more with it than simply cut wires.

4 comments:

PioneerPreppy said...

I quit Facebook years ago. I think I am much happier for it.

songbird said...

Good reflections. I use FB as a means of following up on my family and true friends to see what's up in their lives. I try not to get into all the political and religious posts and truthfully, I do have a few FB friends who post whatever thought comes into their heads - very annoying. I don't think I would be happy giving it up yet since I would lose contact with so many good people who don't live close to me anymore.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I do not know that I am quite at the happier stage yet. Perhaps at the "I have time to do other things" phase.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Speaking as a beneficiary of your attention in this matter, I agree. It has a place as a form of technology. What I suppose I am considering is the fact that it had moved beyond that for me to become a real intermediary instead of just a notification site. I do use it to keep up with some people and to notify others (again, for family far away it is a godsend). I do not know that I am fully to the giving up stage but I am definitely in the withdrawal phase.