Tuesday, 16 June 2009

facebook is..

· Facebook is cheap, it makes words and photos cheap. The easier Facebook makes things, the less value they have, the less story they have, the less any experience is framed and defined by delayed gratification. It is aiding and abetting the cultivation of a generation of impatient consumers, grazing information, dissociating fact from meaning.

· Facebook serves a superficial, sight-seeing mentality. Albums catalogue snapshots of made-for-facebook poses at events that didn’t happen.

· Facebook is Babel, a megaproject that is destroying language.

· Facebook is wilfully ambiguous, it colours everything with its ambiguity: rsvps, affections, inferences.

· Facebook allows you to manufacture identity, and regardless of whether you fabricate illusions, everything must be placed under suspicion – this is not bringing people together.

· Facebook impedes closure and gives the illusion that I can be omnipresent, by never fully leaving a place you are never fully at the next. Your Being is diluted, diffused, spread thin across the globe.

· Facebook is calculated to keep you online looking at their ads. Facebook would rather you conducted all your socialising through their forum, it profits them to keep you inside, plugged in, chatting in 2dimensional space.

· Facebook abuses the human decency that otherwise obliges you to open the door when knocked, answer the phone when rung, help one in need when he asks. It will fatigue human decency by the cacophony of urgent appeals to your patience.

· Facebook is addictive, don’t start. There are the subtle addictions, addictions to affirmation, to busy-ness, to gossip. But further, I have experienced a weight of obligation, unspoken, to be available which in a sense would parallel addiction. This is people-pleasing’s toll in an environment without self-limiting restraint.

· Facebook panders to an idol system I am too weak to resist. The ego I could be, the image I could present - the possibilities are tantalising.

· Facebook takes time I don’t have or want to give. Facebook is a dead end for creative energy. Facebook is a cry for help from a purposeless generation.

· Facebook enables and encourages geographical promiscuity, timelessness and placelessness. I’m not in, of or for a place, I am not submitted to the geography, sunrise, neighbours, politics or any inconvenience of this locale. Facebook is virtual and on a trajectory towards the increasingly unreal.

· Facebook is not enriching my relationships. Facebook is not close enough for intimate relationships and does not give appropriate distance for acquaintances, it blurs what would otherwise be a functional hierarchy of friendships. Facebook ascribes undue importance to superficial relationships and does not offer the potential for real intimacy.

· Facebook trades in a false vulnerability. Those who ‘vomit’ (JimP) themselves online are being done a grave disservice. These are safe places to be vulnerable because people don’t care, and can’t. You are free to imagine they do. (Jim is online here for those interested, it’s not about facebook per se)

· Facebook is predicated on informationism. As Schultze describes this quasi-religion which preaches the is over the ought, observation over intimacy, and measurement over meaning.

· Facebook makes our relationships tertiary: there is a middleman, a marketeer, and a cloud of self-congratulating witnesses. All is a performance of who is watching whom in a grand charade of broadcast small-talk.

· Facebook offers more information than you can possibly process.

· Facebook stores your data under dubious Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. If that bothers you..

· Facebook reduces the personhood of a human, their depth and complexity shrink to a face and its attributes. And we become the limited models we employ.

· Facebook gives the illusion of multiplying your availability and denies the limits of the human form, you can chat intimately with five friends on five continents, offering the image of an I-Thou encounter to each, but there is a sense in which you are both suspending disbelief, convincing yourselves that their undivided attention is truly yours.

· Facebook makes me feel good, I get a buzz when you poke me.

· Facebook is primarily an exercise in narcissism, and only secondly a tool for networking. Like hanging a floor to ceiling mirror in the hallway (‘so that the space feels bigger’) – we are inescapably lovers of self, in a group photo you seek yourself out.

· Facebook increases anxiety. Anxiety concerning the system: where your data is, who has your address book, what will the next privacy change bring. And anxiety concerning you and your relationships: who is setting the code for etiquette, am I being understood, should I be more available. You have no excuse not to reply to messages within the hour.

· Facebook allows me to take friends for granted. It reduces the risk of relationship and disincentivises meeting face to face.

· Facebook industrialises friendship to a quantitative process governed by efficiencies.

· Facebook makes of us second-handers and normalises this empoverishment of a person ((Ayn Rand via JP) “They don't live from the joy that comes through achieving what they value for its own sake. Instead, they live second-hand from the praise and compliments of others”

· Facebook is your life as an OK! Magazine headline. Your 15minutes of celebrity, your name in print, the banal minutiae of your life announced in a 24hour newsculture. This, and reality TV are the models of discourse facebook is made legible through.

· Having written these all, I discover they are largely covered and more succinctly by John Piper in the following single paragraph (in the full text he tempers this with the positive side which he is erring on in his decision to twitter) “[social Internet media like blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others] tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.”

· Facebook is unsatisfying, hard to maintain, unsustainable. I have not a home of sufficient weight to keep me from making my home on facebook. I have not done facebook well.


Paul Brannan said...

Facebook is real. The problem is that it is bite-sized reality. It's like trying to eat one piece of sushi -- you'll always leave feeling hungry for more.

Facebook is a tool. Being a tool, as you point out, does have consequences (there's no such thing as "just a tool"). Facebook is a particularly subversive tool, gently prodding the user to spend more and more time online, in order to increase ad revenue.

Facebook is a tool with negative consequences, but also positive ones. I would probably not have had real face-to-face interaction with real people from L'Abri recently had it not been for connecting on Facebook.

Facebook is part of a larger conspiracy to index and categorize every person in the world. I'm not suggesting its creators are a part of something diabolical. Facebook isn't the problem -- it just plays its own role in the (larger) system.

Facebook isn't the only online community in need of scrutiny. I have been online for over 15 years now, and I have seen numerous online communities come and go (anyone remember irc? orkut? fidnonet?) Just remember -- an introspective attitude is just as easy offline as on.

Marshal Burnham said...

you went over board... it's a place to share pics and talk to old or distant friend... a place to actually plan an event in a busy schedule to see someone... it never stops but encourages people to open the door and pick up the phone, as it aids in making those appointments.

get a grip... your blogging seperates you from interaction, from talking your thoughts to others, istead you quietly post your thoughts so a groupfo nobodys from nowhere, can agree on nothing...

this is silly, look me up on facebook if you want to have a real conversation about this.

forever mine


Lion King said...

Like anything else, it is a case of too much of a good thing is never good. Facebook does allow people to get in touch with old school friends and catch up with what they are doing now. However, it also encourages superficiality and lets people get rid of their "friends" with a click of a button. Real friendship is a valuable thing.

Bec said...

So how is being a couch surfer different? I don't see why facebook is singled out as the big baddie.

Being on fb and couch surfing have done good things for me. Introduced me to friends who'd otherwise be strangers; and helped me keep in touch with people more easily, particularly time difference friends.

I don't deny that its addictive, but I still write letters by hand. And I still go for real coffee with real people. And probably am quite capable of creating my own identity without the help of a profile box, admittedly that helps!

How do you think different personality types are affected by the list? Or are these universal problems?

Philip Jackson said...

Bec, hello.

Singularly facebook. Facebook was being singled out as the big baddie, at that particular time because I was justifying my exit. So, with a certain polemic flourish I had accused facebook singularly. I would possibly argue for certain ways my criticism of facebook applies particularly, acutely, and comparatively more to facebook than to other platforms for online social networking, but probably most of my concerns around the deception involved in projecting an online identity as so on stand for other platforms also.

But couchsurfing. Although not from my present London residence, I have been a happy avid couchsurfer and host. How is this different from facebook. I am sure that it can exist for some in a similar addictive way as an escape, and I would say that CS exaggerates the role it has in forming depth in the relationships there. However, insofar as I am reconciled to the hitech and surrendered to the global digital disparities and am happy to sit in the tension of cost and the opportunities presented by 'technology'.. insofar as all that couchsurfing is a profoundly human way to travel, a redemptive return to a culture of hospitality and a glorious gift economy. Importantly it differs from facebook in its lack of advertising, it differs by uniting people to a specific cause, it differs in its intentional approach to accountability and all the options available for being be vouched for. Couchsurfing is different, imperfect, but I would argue it is far less the limitless arena of narcissism and idle salesmanship of facebook.

Personality types. I have said, or atleast conceded in moments of humility since. I do not believe everyone should leave facebook, certain people are called to give life and love there, certain people are constrained by circumstance and for them it is an incredibly powerful and intuitive tool for organising people in that difficult 'semi-personal' contexts of university societies etc etc. Very powerful, very intuitive. If and as and when I return to for my MA I will have to think about my claimed moral high-ground.. So yes, some people, in various circumstances.. which brings me to personality types, both my situation and my character and their combination have lead me to leave facebook. I am one thinly stretched across the globe and I am one apt to placeless fantasizing, to a certain sullen self-pity, one who, without the excuse of being off-facebook would feel obliged. I am weighed down by the guilt of not keeping up, and it is more than one should or indeed can attain. So certain character types, the insecure, but more than that, ones with an undue sense of empathy, ones far-flung.. As I have said in my yet unblogged review of Social Network, we see an almost autistic Zuckerburg creating a network for that very purpose, and I would be interested to see the danah boyds http://www.danah.org/ etc of the world map the myers briggs breakdown of facebook..

Welcome Bec. I would love to discuss this in real time, over real coffee, sometime in London.