It took me nine years. Nine long years filled with life and lifey things to finally realize what it is that is flawed with Facebook. To realize why we should all step back a bit else society is transmogrified and nothing short of a zombie apocalypse can cause a reset. It is, frankly, messing with us.
I opened my Facebook in the late winter of 2007. A person I worked with stormed into my office all excited telling me about it and how I “had to get on it right away!” As someone who was about a year into my blogging “thing” (replacing my previous emailing of my inane ramblings to unsuspecting friends), the concept of FB was sound. I could collect friends like wrinkly, aged Pokemon (with no powers whatsoever and who sadly said more words than just their name). I could force them to read statuses like “Sean Liddle has just eaten a #21 Black Bean Tofu, extra spicy!” I could send photos. I could write diatribes. It was good.
Years wore on. I posted, I retracted, I reposted, I shared and shared and over time I began to develop this feeling. An odd, inexplicable feeling that something was wrong with FB. I closed (temporarily) my account more than a few times. I took “Facebookations*” (my word, you can use it). I kept returning and grumbling about it. I couldn’t put my finger on it, why exactly I wanted to leave but couldn’t hold up my part of the bargain I made with myself (yes I discuss things with myself, it’s a sign of efficiency in problem solving. I posted about it last week didn’t you read it?)
But now I know.
Facebook is too social.
You read that right and yes, I know, someone right now is crafting a comment down below that says something along the lines of “it IS called a social network for a reason dumb dumb”. This is an example of the kind of person we like to call a “jerk”. Feel free to skip over their rant, they probably have no real world friends. Read on.
Fifteen years ago, if I broke my arm playing soccer (true story) I would email my closer friends (not every person I know, have ever known or folks I met online because we have a mutual love of Winona Ryder circa 1987) and say “Jebus. I broke my arm!” If I was having a party, I’d email or (ye gods) telephone people I wanted to show up and say “I’m having a party Friday night. B.Y.O.B. and a cute friend.” If it was pre-1996 when I met my wife and I was feeling down because my girlfriend dumped me (never happened, I’m a serial dumper) I would maybe, maybe, tell a couple of close friends. Maybe. They would of course in turn tell me that a) I needed to stop being a girl and b) needed to go out and get completely wrote off on rum and 7-Up. If I took a photo of my kids, my wife playing dead on the kitchen floor or myself looking freaking swole at the gym I would just keep it on my computer. Maybe I’d print out a few of the kid ones and give them to my Mom at Xmas. I’d save the gym one for future use if my wife ever dumped me (never happen, I’m awesome) and I needed to set up a dating profile on an online site (again, never happen, this is really dipping deep into the pool of fantasy).
In NONE of the above situations would I call all of my friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, Winona Ryder fetishists or members of the local Chuck Palahnuik fan club (shh, we don’t talk about it) into a room and tell them about all these things. I would be selective. I would have some sense of shame. I would have a bit of reason about my sharing every aspect of my life.
Facebook goes against this. Facebook gives people a false sense of community where one naturally would not exist. It coerces you into the belief that you really DO have three hundred plus close friends. In the real world you have just as many contacts but they are not all your friends, pre-Facebook you wouldn’t call them such and you certainly wouldn’t share the things FB convinces you to share with all of them.
All of this is disconcerting to someone like me who likes to believe has always been an introvert (and happy as such) but somehow became an online extrovert. No ma’am, I don’t like it. I don’t like how I have been tricked and how this trickery has to bring up another issue, been monetized. The things I post, link to, share, “like” and discuss are tracked, analyzed and assessed by FB and its business partners to focus ads toward me and mine. For the record, as much as I am interested in ads and mass communication psychology, I despise the world of advertising, marketing and selling of things to people who don’t need them. Yeah, I’m the Anti-Snoopy in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (the first one, not the other ridiculous ones).
It also dovetails nicely into another problem that plagues modern, western society. A massive false sense of entitlement. Dare not tell people they shouldn’t do something that is questionable. Combine the above with an ever growing, more global economy and society and disaster is looming. Okay, maybe not a real disaster, but a social disaster.
Facebook may not be “the devil” but it certainly is the Grima Wormtongue of modern life. It convinces you to share everything, to hold nothing back, to publicly display all that goes on in your head without filter, all for the sake of ad revenue. Facebook does not love you. Facebook needs you. It needs you to modify realistic social behavior so it can make moolah. It’s the annoying kid in high school that convinces us all to skip school on a Friday and head to the beach on their party bus and all the while knowing you’ll buy the t-shirts that they printed and the watered down rum punch for the ride.
It’s time to be less social on social networks and focus on reality.
*”Facebook Vacations” for those who have trouble with portmanteau