Ahhh Facebook! In response to my post yesterday in which I announced the creation of a Facebook page for The Ptero Card, Don, a fellow blogger over at A Candid Presence, said he’d love to hear my thoughts on Facebook, so, here goes…with one huge disclaimer:
At one time or another, with the exception of playing games, I have participated in every aspect of the Facebook experience – from mudslinging in the comments section to hit-and-run posting. Perhaps the captive audience that Facebook presents to each of us places us in unfamiliar territory and by communicating to everyone at once (all of our friends, each of whom we know in very different and particular ways), we lose the sense of tailoring our speech to any one particular person. And although I no longer regularly post on Facebook, every criticism noted here just as easily applies to myself as it might to others. I’ll end on a positive note by summing up what I see as a few of the potenial benefits that Facebook does provide.
I’m probably not alone in appreciating that Facebook, like a lot of internet technology, brings us ways to bridge geographic and chronological distances, while offering all of us an opportunity to create a public square of our own making. But knowing people on Facebook is very different then knowing them offline or through the blogosphere, which I see as spatially different.
On WordPress bloggers meet each other in the semi-private and personal places of their blogs. It’s more like visiting someone in their home. Bloggers find each other through common interest discovered online. That might be why people are, for the most part, a bit more respectful and kinder to each other here. I’d love to hear any thoughts my blogger friends might have on what makes the atmosphere here different from Facebook.
If WordPress resembles a visit to someone in their home, what kind of place does Facebook resemble?
Participating on Facebook feels as if I have walked outside my house, into the street that is now a public market. But no matter how near or far, all of my “Friends,” along with their friends, are also in varying degrees, present there. What we find in this shared place is a trail of conversations, some already in progress, – check-ins, memes, games, and photos, all with their likes and comments trailing behind them. Spatially, except for private messaging, it is a public place and always looks just like Facebook wants it to look like; very impersonal and very collective, because Facebook does not allow customization of their pages the way that WordPress and other social media software do.
So we meet our Friends in a public market, only we’re not necessarily buying and selling, we’re sometimes there to let others know that we’re not there, via the Facebook check-in feature, or we’re there to participate in game apps or to let others know how we feel politically, or about social causes and issues. But instead of presenting an idea in our words, we borrow someone else’s meme.
Perhaps for some of us, it feels safer to post memes to our newsfeed because they carry the weight of collective opinion with them. I get it, but…should we at least drop the pretense that we want a world in which we think for ourselves? Memes are kind of like creativity condoms, they keep a certain amount of creativity from being born. But, do we really want the wellspring of human talent to be reduced to what can be said in 2 x 2 cartoon, one that usually ends up getting shared only because of its viral nature?
On Facebook there are no introductions between your friends and friends of friends, or other’s friends of friends. We all just show up at the market place wearing our name tags and doing as we do. We freely not only talk to strangers, but sometimes even argue with them.
Facebook offers a prompt to help us post – in case you’re not sure of what to post, but you want to post something. “What’s on your mind,” or “How are you feeling today,” are the auto-generated questions that show up in the posting box at the top of my news feed.
Every time I post to my newsfeed I wonder if there’s anything I really want to say to all 134 friends of mine at once. There are no visual clues as to who you’re talking to when posting to the newsfeed or who is even listening. It’s something akin to playing pin the tail on the donkey, you post and when someone likes your post or comments on it, you know you found the donkey. So the face-to-face contextual relationships that we experience offline are abandoned for something a little more impersonal. Scary for some, freeing for others.
On Facebook I am often surprised at how willing many people are to show sides of themselves that are not often seen offline. I’ve known many of my Facebook friends for a long time and had no idea what political or religious affiliations they have. It truly seems as if people use Facebook to say things they either couldn’t put into words, didn’t have the nerve to say to your face, or perhaps say things that are not aimed at anyone in particular because maybe no one ever asked, so now we have a place to unload all those things that we really do want to say to each other or at least to some cumulative sense of humanity that we think needs to hear us.
Okay, before you all unfriend me, here are the things I do like about Facebook:
Staying in touch with friends and family who live far away.
Getting reaquainted with old friends and family.
Seeing friends’ photos of places I’ve never seen and perhaps never will. Seeing photos of friend’s families and kids.
Knowing when people are having a difficult time and in need of some words of encouragement or prayers.
Being aware of creative activities that friends are involved in – from music performances, crafts, writing projects, graduations, community involvement or news of family and friends or the passing of a loved one. The creativity and generosity of my friends never ceases to amaze me. Like.
According to CNN, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the 2nd largest philanthropic donor in the US: