Monday, April 14, 2008

Moodiness + Facebook Analysis (no logical connection implied here)

I really don't feel like writing. I think that means something is wrong. Prime suspect is that I haven't been doing sufficient processing in places that won't be read by whoever is wandering the internet. Perhaps the trouble is just that my attention is all over the place because there are so many things on my to-do list. Vicious cycle--no attention span, no productivity, longer to-do list, even less attention span by consequence.

But sitting down to write something out is always a good choice. A means of focusing...

I have been thinking a bit about Facebook: its merits and demerits. Someone recently made the claim to me that "Anyone who spends more than three minutes a week on Facebook has a problem." Hrmph. If that logic is correct, I definitely have a problem. I haven't logged my FB hours, but since it's the primary means by which I stay in touch with a fair number of people, I check it frequently (perhaps obsessively), though that's not to say that I spend a lot of time on it every time I check. However, I use it rather like email, with the result that I periodically stay on FB for, oh, maybe an hour?

My accuser didn't buy the "FB is like email." The primary accusation made was that FB is a popularity contest: who has more friends, whose friends write on their walls, what sorts of things are written on people's walls, ... It's all about grabbing attention, supposedly.

I disagree. There certainly is a component of attention-seeking, and FB certainly has a huge potential for time-wasting and obsessing and social comparisons. However, FB also offers an extremely useful consolidation/integration of communication tools with a range of implied meaningfulness: from the completely ambiguous and non-committal Poke, to the as-fluffy-as-you-want-it Wall, to the hidden Message. The conventions and culture of FB allow you to contact someone you haven't talked to in a while with less awkwardness than other forms of communication, because FB presumes very little intimacy, probably because it imposes very little. Also, FB is useful for organizing events, groups, etc..

Not to imply that FB does not get abused or addictive, nor that it never feels like a popularity contest.

But think about human interactions in general. We are social creatures. We need attention from each other, and seeking that attention is entirely legitimate, so long as that need for attention is kept to an appropriate intensity. A phone call, an email, a conversation: these all require attention. My accuser's complaint referred especially to the "hey, look, I got a wall post! (and you didn't)" reaction--or rather, generalized that reaction to everyone on FB because everyone's wall is essentially public. My reply is that having a wall conversation is like talking in public. Though you can be overheard by people for whom the information is not intended, that's not at all the purpose of talking in public. It's just a natural consequence of choosing a form of communication that presumes little about your right to impose on someone's time and space. Alternately, you might be talking with a group of people, but address your remarks to one person in particular even though the whole group is listening, or can be if they so desire. This scenario tends to occur around a table at dinner, for instance.

Facebook is like any form of communication, in short: capable of accommodating a full range of interactions. It can reveal immaturity, neediness, etc.. But it can also perfectly normal social exchanges, or even private conversations. It's a tool like any other: having its use, but having also the potential for misuse.

1 comment:

sunfall said...

I sent my facebook into the wilds of deactivation, you can ready the why's on my blog (not the livejournal, which I'm using to comment) if you wish. but this post seemed relevant and so here I am!