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