So i've come to the realization? conclusion? decision? that facebook is not meeting any of the criteria that tempted me into joining this site and using it's service. Certainly i've been contacted by people i used to know way back in the day. But beyond being "friended" that was the end of the interaction. In some cases i've not actually even spoken to any of these people since they friended me. I sound like i'm whining, so let me backtrack a little bit. Back in the days before facebook was the omnipresent entity that it is today i used livejournal to keep myself up to date on the goings on of my friends. People would post essays of dare i say actual content. I would read some thought out thing that someone put time and effort into and wanted other people to see ideally (i presume) with the effect of having people respond in kind with their take on the topic. The crazy thing is this actually happened, i took part in quite a few lively discussions on livejournal (howdy Arcane). But as people drifted over to facebook there were less and less posts from people i know on livejournal. My livejournal account now amounts to a feed service for various blogs that i wanted to keep track of a few years ago before i picked up an honest to god feed reader.
What i'm trying to say is that the medium that is facebook seems to generate primarily shallow surface interactions. We can step into any of our friends lives at the drop of a hat and see what they're up to. Huh, she had a ham sandwich for lunch, or she's thinking of watching that new film (*). We see their picture and see what they're up to, we "like" or leave some trite "ME TOO!!" comment and shazam, interaction with our friend. It makes us feel like we've gotten our human interaction on. But we haven't. Even your closest friends, on facebook they are more like people you work with. In that, what you discuss and the interactions available tend to be limited by the crowded lunchroom nature that is facebook. Honest open discourse cannot be held on facebook. Sure the message option exists for that purpose but how many messages do people really send? The format is so informal that correspondence tend to lack the polish that an email has. At least as far as i remember email had...It's been a long time since i've gotten an actual email from anybody who isn't on facebook. In fact i've received very few messages on facebook, considering the fact that i've got 125 "friends." I don't mean to call anybody out and say that you all are bad friends. I'm one too, when was the last time i sent anyone a message over a couple sentences? How many of you do i honestly enjoy talking to but haven't managed to do so in quite some time?
Partly it's our fault, and partly it's facebooks. People are lazy, that's our bad. But facebook is also to blame. In the same way that no one bothers to learn to spell anymore because spell checkers exist, or for the same reason that our ancestors would remember vast stores of knowledge out of necessity (oral histories, the epic poems, the ability of any "decent Gentleman" being able to quote various texts and authors from memory) but people no longer commit large stores of information to memory, they don't need to. The internet and it's various search functions (although there is really only google anymore) act as an external hard drive to our memory. We are all cyborgs to the extent that electronic devices now take up so much of the burden of remembering stuff for us. I'm old enough to have lived without a cell phone for years. I remember having to remember peoples phone numbers. Now i probobly couldn't tell you anyone's phone number off the top of my head. But i still remember a friend from 5th grades number. I don't mean to begrudge this behavior or go Luddite on everyone (despite the excesses i feel some of it has gone to) but by and large this is our culture now and this is how things will be in terms of our interaction with each other by way of technology. I recognize this and i'm not trying to fight it. Why would i bother memorizing phone numbers when the cell phone i have already does it better than i can?
But my issues arises with facebook in that we maintain the same behavioral model we use with google when using facebook. The difference being that with google it's simply information. With facebook we look up people and the events that currently make up their life. we find out by way of our friend feed what's happening with someone and go on our way. No actual interaction has occurred we don't have the personalized interaction with this other human being that we prize to the point that (i would hope) made us friend them on facebook in the first place. Facebook makes us feel like we're aware of what's happening in someones life. But we' really haven't got a clue. All we know is the sanitized version that is safe enough for people to post in front of a large group of people of varying levels of intimacy.
So where is the harm in this one might ask. From my point of view, a great deal. I feel like the format of facebook is structured well to take advantage of our natural tendency to laziness. It's hard to be a good friend. It's hard to write worthwhile correspondence to people on a regular basis. But people used to all the time before this became the de-facto option. But it's so easy to scrawl a meaningless "hey i still exist and i know you do too" on someone's wall and call it a day. In fact it is expressly designed to facilitate this sort of shallow interaction. That's not what i want, not from myself, and not from my friends.
From a personal standpoint, and i'm sure many others will see themselves in this. I personally waste more time on facebook than i would care to. I'm leaning towards saying all time on facebook is a waste, but for the sake of argument lets assume that the functions that actively constitute interaction on facebook are worthwhile. The amount of time i'm on facebook, and the amount of time which i could call "actual interaction" are very slanted, i would hazard something in the nature of 20/80 but it's probably more like 10/90 because reading statuses on a feed isn't really interacting, but it is kind of interacting...in a way. So that brings to mind, what am i doing the rest of the time? Part of it is browsing through other peoples stuff, the electric equivalent of looking in a neighbors window. This is a meaningless activity and ultimately a waste of time. The other chunk of time is spent checking and rechecking to see if i have any messages or comments or requests. While only a minute or two at a time, that adds up. How much time do i waste checking to see if anything has happened? How much has ever really happened?
This is all compounded if one uses any of the application games. I've personally seen someone get sucked into these facebook games to a point that it becomes damaging.
So here is my roundabout point; facebook is specifically (the more paranoid aspect of me would say maliciously) designed to appeal to our lazy natures and it is structured in a way that keeps us on it, or checking it so repeatedly that it maximises the amount of time we spend on facebook compared to other sites. (once again the paranoid tin foil hat wearer in me says this is all built around add revenue and the kind of usage figures and google analytics that facebook can wave in the face of ad companies)
I'm tired of sitting down, turning the computer on and checking facebook and finding i've already lost an hour. As many of you know i am quite prone to losing hours to the internet, but in the past i was primarily researching things. The reason i know as much about as much as i do is because i spent years in a deep depression that kept me in a world of ideas, aided and abetted by the access to information the internet afforded me i was able to escape into a world of ideas and leave behind the world that always left me distraught and wanting. Face book has taken some of that from me as well. I find i can get on the internet, get off a couple hours later and not feel like i've learned anything. I used to get off the internet and be full of things i wanted to discuss and think about.
Face book has made me weak and soft. I apologize to you all for this. From this point on i'm closing shop on facebook. I'm not deleting my account or anything on it, but i will probably not check it again. I will henceforth be writing emails to people i care about. I will respond to emails that are written to me. These will be reasoned responses thought out and meaningful. I will write things of substance and post them in appropriate venues. I want more from my interactions with other people. I want more from myself in my reading of online literature. I am endeavoring to make myself a better friend to you all. I hope you will understand that this will take effort on both our parts. If your not interested, then no hard feelings, i understand, really i do. Life is tiring i can't begrudge anyone that gets worn down by it and can't find it to pursue interaction in this manner. While i am currently over seas, upon my return i intend to spend much more time with other people. I live within minutes of almost everyone i find interesting in albuquerque (i'm coming to visit you austinites don't worry) and i see you all so rarely it's almost criminal. There is no excuse for this behavior, other than being a general curmudgeon and antisocial tendencies.
I'm going to try and be a better person.
*i guess it's pretty clear at this point that i don't have a twitter account