I recently wrote a paper on why facebook is problematic from a postmodern theoretical perspective. Without burdening you with a lot of jargon, I wanted interested people like you to be able to read about why, through this perspective, facebook causes a lot of confusion in people’s lives. Many of these issues have been expressed already on this website, and I think that you may feel them intuitively, just by using facebook (or watching your children or co-workers or friends use facebook)! Do these ring true for you?
• You are not a “profile.” An individual person consists of so many attributes, often in conflict, that trying to distill yourself down to a few sentences renders a totally incomplete picture of yourself. You are a shell of your vibrant and complex self on your facebook profile, and this is how facebook “friends” interpret and categorize you.
• You are not a “profile pic.” The photo in the top-left corner of your profile that everyone sees, does that really look like you all of the time? Do you have more dimensions to your life than one snapshot (i.e, perhaps you have a professional appearance and a completely different one around your friends and family)? Do you really think your “friends” ever look the way they do in their picture? It was likely photoshopped!
• What is a “friend”? Can we all possibly agree on what that word even means? For some, it is an acquaintance. For others, it is close friends and family. For others still, it is a person that perhaps he has never even met in the real world, but who may have attended the same school or worked for the same company. Knowing this, why should we allow ourselves to attempt to compare our numbers of “friends” or evaluate our sense of self-worth by who our “friends” are?
• What is posted in a status update or on a Wall could mean anything. You have probably observed this many times. Someone posts a status update or makes a comment, and it is interpreted a hundred different ways. Do you ever post something and get a completely different response than you anticipated? That is because language is widely interpreted and distilling a complex thought down to a sound bite inevitably invokes a wide variety of images in the minds of the readers.
And this is just the beginning! I posted this under “Wasting Your Life” because I thought it would be interesting to compare these facebook rituals with real-life socialization. In the real world, with face-to-face contact, you know who your friends are by what role they play in your life, you know what you look like and they look like, and you can have an effective conversation with give-and-take where you receive a clearer picture of their attitudes and concerns. So why are we choosing facebook time in ever-growing amounts over face-to-face socialization? Before that next logon during your lunch break, perhaps you should pick up the phone and invite a real friend to lunch instead.
I’d say a lot more, but this is just a blog post, after all… In a real world conversation, I could even better discuss it with you!
Thanks for reading!