11 January 2011

Life 2.0

Like millions of people out there, I probably spend too much time on Facebook. Don't get me wrong — I think it's a really useful tool and a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, even potential clients or supporters in the case of organizations or businesses. I just want to share some of my observations about the perverse effects it might have, from my own skewed and admittedly perverse view.

First of all, let's talk about time. Not the time one might spend perusing the newsfeed or creeping the status of the friend of a friend, but the perception of time one might have in reference to what is read. News items have a way of bubbling back up to the top from time to time, like they happened moments ago, not the hours ago when I first saw them. That is enough to put me a little on edge — is there some glitch or planned function of Facebook doing this, or is my dementia kicking in?

There's a little Big Brother functionality in how it works, too. Change your profile picture now and then scroll back to what you posted last week or last month. No, you have always looked like that crazy kitten cartoon you just put up as your profile pic. (I am well aware of the fact that this is because it is stored in a matrix used to retrieve the current image associated with my identity, but it still seems like we have always been friends with EastAsia.)

One thing that Facebook has certainly done is to achieve that Web 2.0 ideal: tons of interactions and commentary on anything and everything. And it's all so easy, too! I find myself sticking my thumb up whenever I like something out there in the real world, rather than verbalizing any words of appreciation or approval. I have to add, however, that the group I set up to demand more options in our replies only attracted 27 members, despite the clever photos I worked up.

But what is all that clicking doing to actually getting out there and doing things? Totally choking it off. I am as guilty as the next person, I am sure, of indicating I will attend or might attend an event and then feeling like I have done my part in showing how worthwhile it is, so I don't really have to leave my house to go to it. Facebook might make it easier for groups or individuals to create events and invite dozens, hundreds, even thousands of others to participate, but it can also be disturbingly demobilizing. And like I said, I am certainly as guilty as the next person on this count.
One more bizarre situation that people setting up a social network for youth never anticipated. I have two Facebook friends who have died. Their walls fill up with comments from their friends who miss them and have that last message to leave, if not for them directly, for the friends and family who might be checking the page. The macabre part is when the automatic functions within Facebook actually remind me that I haven't talked to my dead friend lately, or wouldn't I like to suggest some new friends for my dead friend?

I guess that's when I snap back to realizing that the real world is going on somewhere other than on the screen in front of me.


Greer said...

It's a great and thought-provoking piece, Ken. I have had some comfort from the shared grief of a dead friend's FB page although, like you, I find it creepy when their photos pop up or when you are invited to suggest friends. It's good to remind people that FB is not the same as speaking or meeting with someone. It's a school bulletin board and not actual contact.

shine pain effy said...

The important thing in life does not go through what is said through a screen. Good text. Kiss