I don’t wish to establish the view that technology is neutral, that is, that its value is determined by its use. This makes it a question of the intention of the user rather than any inherent quality or function in the technology itself. I personally find the idea problematic, but that’s tertiary to my main concern.
Let’s get all the necessary fanfare out of the way first. Facebook has done wondrous things. It reconnects people in long-lost relationships. It does for this generation what the Yellow Pages did for mine, only more effectively. Facebook also serves as a meaningful forum to make new relationships of whatever kind. It is an outlet to express opinions on a matter or herald beliefs that guide one’s outlook and life choices. (Heck, I’m announcing this blog on Facebook!) It’s a place where one can be silly, share videos and pictures that demonstrate that reality visually and aurally. It can even function as a professional medium communicating some skill or service individuals, groups, and organizations can offer. It is useful for other reasons, too, but, like my point about the neutrality of function, these reasons are immaterial here.
There are at least two levels of complication that have fed my growing distaste for the technology. There’s the surface level of how, through comments, Likes, and even indifference (e.g., creepers who stand on the sidelines), the technology furnishes scenarios, sometimes real, sometimes imagined—and for that latter reason gratuitously detrimental. “Jane habitually Likes Sarah’s and Bob’s posts but purposely avoids mine”; “I’m sure Frank is trying to communicate X through his activity Y and Z”; “OMG! Another selfie! What a narcissist!”; “My post has had only a couple of Likes. It’s obviously off-putting. I’ll take it down so as not to make a further spectacle of myself!”; insert your own scenario here. (Disclaimer: names and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental!) The possible truth factor here is what tips the scales, in my opinion, in the direction of disservice to the self. (I’m leaving out here the element of users being overtly mean, smug, or dismissive. That’s just too obvious to demand attention.)
The second level of complication is somehow more sinister bedevilled by factors creating scenarios less sensible, less whimsical (?). These are completely disruptive to life. Here the conscious activity of the first level meets an unconscious subterrane of meaning. The sheer availability, accessibility, of actants pulls us into a play of unconscious curiosity, of our self-worth and value to others. The subterfuge of the Timeline, and possible meanings in our first level, slips into the background, into Messenger, as it were: from public interaction and meaning to the more private. This is not to say that all activity behind the veil is untoward; that would be sheer nonsense, if not sheer paranoia. It is to say, however, that it opens a Pandora’s box that can suck one into a vortex of feelings and associations we all know has been responsible for the demise of otherwise healthy relationships in the creation of others, not necessarily healthy either. As in level one, here too the imagination can overwhelm, not only of those immediately interacting but also of those imagining an interaction. I’ll leave specific examples to your imagination this time.
Mostly for these reasons I have significantly limited my use of Facebook. Its drawbacks, potential and real, outweigh for me its benefits. Whether these reasons are indicative of immaturity or acute pathology fails to exercise a hold on me. They are a reality, one which I’d rather understand and act on accordingly. Make no mistake: Facebook is here and—as its number of users seems to suggest—it’s here to stay. Facebook, among other social media, has come to define how we, as a society, choose to interact. It is literally, as I like to say (in homage to one of my favorite philosophers), a technology of the self, a modern iteration of it. However, in the making and caring of my self I have come to prefer to face my significant others than Facebook them.