In spite of the fact that at least a couple of close friends treated my opinions unforgivingly after I criticized Facebook, I am not inclined to remain silent on the on the subject.
Facebook, and before it Myspace, and before it AOL, and before it the BBS network, are all just extensions of the shallowest and least genuine of the gossip that is so prevalent in the human condition. How does the Eleanor Roosevelt quote go? “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Facebook is the small mind of the current internet generation, where people talk about themselves and the banal minutia of their lives, and other people. Its nature is why I try to hold my own web site to a higher standard, to a standard that offers substance instead of fluff. I think of my web site as an extension of my journal, which as my long-time friends know is a very rich and genuine place.
Facebook is “popular.” And any student of history knows that popularity equals mediocrity. I perceive Facebook as dangerous, since like its predecessors, its popularity and commonness dumbs us down.
(Sidebar: as I wrote this, a new coach in our area called me to see if I could get his head shot off of his Facebook page for use in the newspaper. The answer was no: the resolution is much too low, and we have no way to obtain ownership for publication if we get images from Facebook.)
Another thing I don’t like about Facebook is the way that content is managed chronologically, so that items are pushed to the bottom of the “feed,” causing them to disappear out of site rapidly. Individual items of significance vanish into a sea of irrelevant chatter. (I know blogs work the same chronological way, but blogs contain vastly smaller numbers of authors, so the content is much easier to access.)
Most sinister of all, of course, is that Facebook is the current iteration of obedience and conformity. For that it works well, and every hyper-conforming soccer mom and popular high school kid belongs on Facebook because they really have no original ideas anyway, or if they did they are afraid of being labeled “weird” by ever lesser minds.
My friend Wil C. Fry despises Facebook ever more than I do, for all the same reasons. He recently penned an article on one of his blogs about peer pressure to use “Smart Phones” to share personal content. The upshot of the entry was the same as the upshot of this one, that we are constantly pressured into conformity by hearts and minds that are beneath and behind us, and those minds pressure us with tools like Facebook.
I have said it before and I will say it again, because it deserves to be repeated: I will always strive to produce quality content and substance in all my endeavors. I have to add that while there has been much speculation in the Facebook era about what might be the “next” Facebook, I am just not all that interested. The internet public can go where it wants. I’ll always be here.