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The Facebook Conundrum

February 9, 2009
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I’m a Facebook user. One might even call me a Facebook addict.  I think it is a fine utility (although, why I feel the need to check it multiple times a day, I’ll never know.)  It has allowed me to reconnect with people who, in a different age (re: ten years ago), I probably never would’ve spoken to again, and I appreciate that.   It is a nice, painless way to keep track of friends and acquaintances.  It even has some fun games on it, a couple decent music apps, and I admit to getting a kick out of the status updates.  But if Facebook were my child, I would probably have a long talk with it about how it was too worried about being popular and was really not living up to its potential.  And I’m sure I’d really embarrass it in front of its friends on multiple occasions.  Like that time I didn’t know who T-Pain was.

Sure, I’ll admit to enjoying the voyeuristic aspects of Facebook, but when I think of “social networking” I don’t think of standing at a bar and just catching tidbits of 50 different conversations.  I want to engage with other people, not stand in a corner and say “Ab is enjoying his Maker’s Mark” before moving on to the next person.  And to me, that is where Facebook is failing.  Of course, one can’t really blame the application itself.  As the old saying goes, Facebook doesn’t force people to be self-absorbed narcissists, people force themselves to be self-absorbed narcissists.  And look, I’m as narcissistic as anyone.  In fact, the whole reason I’m writing this screed is probably because someone didn’t comment on one of my postings.  Damn it, people, pay attention to all the important things I’m saying.

In all seriousness, though, I don’t want Facebook to lose its fluffiness.  At the same time, I do want people to engage ideas.  If I post an article dealing with the stimulus package, it’s not (only) because I want everyone to know my feelings on it.  I want to have a discussion about it.  Remember what that felt like, the free-flowing exchange of ideas, from whence we all come out with a better understanding of what we believe, and maybe we even have our minds changed?  That’s a wonderful thing.  But what I’ve discovered is that my status updates saying I can’t sleep get more comments than a post about the record number of job losses or even one about the size of the universe or new music.  I’m not saying every discussion has to be about the doom and gloom, but it seems that no one wants to discuss anything.  We all just want to get bits of us out there, without really taking a whole lot back in.  Nothing very challenging back in, anyway.  I like Facebook because it allows more than a status update.  Feel free to Twitter all day if you like, it’s just not for me.  I’d rather be involved in a forum where we can go into a little depth.

Maybe I’m wrong to look to Facebook for serious thinking.  Maybe all those people on Facebook are doing their serious thinking elsewhere.  In fact, I’m sure that’s true.  We’re all busy.  We all have our outlets for conversation that are not online.  Most of us probably look at Facebook as a novelty.  But for me, that novelty starts to wear off about the same time you realize that you have nothing interesting to say to one another.

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