Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading an honest, real people article about hating Facebook by sensitive writer Bethany Saltman at her blog Is This My Chair? Bethany describes it this way:
"...After all these years of Zen practice, I know a hell-realm when I see it. Facebook transforms me into a voracious hungry ghost, unable to be nourished by the food at my own table, and in a state of envy and psychic disarray, trying to stuff more of whatever it is they have into my little cake-hole, but alas, nothing satisfies. Am I alone?"
What is Bethany telling us? That you cannot make friends on Facebook. Granted! It is a place where people flash themselves. All social media is. Real discourse is not even welcome there. And as Bethany says,"Duh...they don't really 'like' you!" But the thing is…where do you find somebody to talk? Or more to the point, where do you find a chat room to talk in?
Twenty years ago in Honors College I was required to read "Amusing Ourselves to Death," by Neil Postman, a book warning about public discourse being destroyed as it takes on the form of entertainment. Postman was alarmed by the western trend to reduce all communication to short bits presented in quick flashy media shots, turning communication into advertisements. Recently I reread this book and was amazed at the perfect futuristic description it gave of Facebook! Postman, a philosopher, wrote this book with astounding foresight previous to social media and before digital television screens created an epidemic of autistic and ADHD children who have abnormally short attention spans.
Concurrent with the popularity of social media, community on the Internet is completely dying out. I was dismayed when MSN closed their free groups service 10 years ago, the original and wonderful service that existed parallel to public chat rooms. MSN Groups provided rooms with an excellent, full service private chat room, a message board on the front page, unlimited web pages, unlimited space for graphics, html option, storage pages for files, lists, links, an easily usable calendar, email contact with the whole group, outstanding technical support, and very few intrusive outside ads. All of that plus messenger services made for great community! And altho I am glad that predators can no longer stalk victims in open, public chat rooms, I miss community!
The feeble groups services at Yahoo and Google, left after MSN, do not offer anything equal to MSN and will not last much longer. But the point is that they are dying because nobody wants them. Nobody uses them. Everybody uses Facebook and Twitter. You cannot protect a culture from itself. Whatever sells will get space on the Internet, and Facebook sells. It sells itself and it sells everybody and everything else. That is the point. It sells. It is all about getting something. It never gives. And it is not quite honest about its purpose. That is why it is slightly distasteful. A product may be for sale. But do I have to pretend be your friend to buy it?
Facebook and the era of social media will run its course, as everything does. Structures of lasting value and quality will endure, win-win structures that are honest and show respect for people, structures that uplift, educate, offer opportunities, and promote a high quality of life. Things that all people in all times value. Things that make life worth living. We must create those and allow them to take their place when the flash and the buzz die down and people start searching for something of substance. For that is inevitable.
Bethany's Blog: www.isthismychair.com
I'm not a fan of facebook and can understand the dissonance you feel but, speaking of honesty and respect for people—your comment "digital television screens created an epidemic of autistic and ADHD children who have abnormally short attention spans" I'm afraid I have to chastise you for making such sweeping erroneous assumptions of conditions that require professional diagnosis. While I'll concede to the correlation of short attentions and advent of television and computerized everything, the off-hand connections you're trying to force between social media and two devastating medical diagnosis is disrespectful and ill-conceived.
thank you for your commnent. It is not an offhand observation, but something I have observed closehand and been concerned about for years. Certainly I am not a doctor and bow to medical research, but where is the medical research that explains this recent, alarming trend? The medical community is coming up with a big fat zero as to causes and they are treating these conditions with drugs that are alarming and experimental, and are basically narcotics. I have seen lots of ADHD children and seen their parents. You don't have to Einstein to see that the kids have lived in an emotionally hectic environment that was never quiet and where they were simply raised by the television. Perhaps I should have said that the obvious parallel rise in both factors--inattention span and digital TV--indicates a definite link. And autisim has been around a long time, before digital TV, but there are new forms of autisim now that seem very linked to ADHD. I am convinced of the relationship between little children who are set in front of TV for excessive periods of time--and there are many-- I accept your criticism and knew I was many a generalization when I said it that may not apply to all cases. But as a mom, I am sure many other moms will relate when I say that when I see children in therapy and on narcotic medications, with learning disorders, whose parents are obviously not uneducated, insensitive, incompetent, and probably abusive, I feel disgust at my society that treats the situation by diagnosing the children with an illness and giving them drugs. I could say a lot on this subject but I bow to your criticism that I have made a generalization that probably does not always apply add my own admission that I am not a doctor. If I have offended anyone to whom my comments do not apply, I certainly apologize. Still our society ignores so many obvious things. We are slow to hold people parents accountable. We are slow to slow to see the obvious. We are very slow to embrace responsibility. How do we end suffering? Not by ignoring it,and not by co-signing the bringing of souls into the world by incompetent people with the mentality of a 5 year old. Is it an accident that the huge percentage of ADHD chidren belong to the poor class? Responsibility goes deep and basic into the way a society manages reproduction. And reproduction in a civilized and caring society must be managed so that people do not suffer. I am about suffering. When the suffering of children stops, when every soul born becomes worthy of being protected even from its own parents, we will be a human race worthy of respect. I venture to make the generalized prediction that behavior illnesses like ADHD and autism will then disappear. Illnesses are absolutely culturally oriented.