Wednesday, 8 August 2012
The Facebook Fallacy
Over the last few days I was contacted by several people urging me to jump back on the Facebook wagon. The reason: this group of friends of mine from the Israeli army has established a new Facebook page for the sake of our good old days. Now they are seeking my contribution.
It certainly is nice to hear from them, especially after years (and some times decades) of silence. Some of these people were good friends of mine, deserving the warm corners in my head dedicated to them. But still, I can't avoid thinking how this example also demonstrates the very problem at the core of the Facebook concept. No, I am not referring to the fact Facebook wants us because we are the product it sells to those that advertize through it; I am referring to the social "friendship" mechanisms that feed Facebook with contents.
Glimpses of the issue start appearing when I think about this group of people that are now united under this new army unit Facebook page. This group that now looks back to the good old days of yonder is a group made of people that, at the time, often could not stand one another. We all had our gripes with some of the others some of the time, but some of these now united people had gripes with some of the other people all of the time; seeing them now holding hands reeks of hypocrisy.
Second, we shouldn't forget that even the most patriotic Israeli nationalists amongst us did not like what we were doing at the army: some had misgivings about what we were doing there in the first place, others were just lazy, some were both, but none of us were there because we actually wanted to be there. Again, looking back at that period as "the good old days" stinks of hypocrisy.
Which brings me to ask, do these friends of mine really want to keep in touch with me? I'm sure some of them do, but I'm also sure many of them would hesitate to associate with me once they discovered what my political views on the going abouts of their country are. Not that they ever had the opportunity to doubt my left wing views; it's just that my views have articulated and matured over time as well as grown light years apart from Israeli consensus. So far are they from the average Israeli's that they are virtually unacceptable to the majority of Israelis (and my mother serves as a fine example there).
All of the above brings me to ask: what is the point of this Facebook page? When put together what I find is the biggest problem with Facebook: this website works by treading on our anxieties. We join it because we do not want to be left behind and forgotten. We want, instead, to keep in touch with our "friends", even if that is no longer the case, just so we wouldn't feel like we were cast aside and have our egos hurt. In the more broader case, Facebook has us looking ourselves in the mirror and asking: How could it be that someone may not like me anymore? I am such a nice person! I therefore have to feed my so called friends with some crap they would find appealing. Together, we could all pretend to live happily ever after.
If it wasn't for these anxieties, this ever present need to see what is going on with the Joneses, I suspect Facebook would lose the bulk of its users. This anxiety can be felt even better through popular Facebook games, with Farmville being the most obvious example: a game that works by making its participants miserable.
Me, I can live without it. I noticed the relief that befell on me as I left Facebook behind and no longer faced the burden of checking up to see what my "friends", real or not, past or present, were up to. I see no reason to go back in and put myself back in the chain gang.
Image from marsmet541, Creative Commons license