O dear, it’s happened again, someone asked me if I Facebook…
There is a now ancient video of Michael Crichton sitting in with a panel of sci-fi writers discussing the state of that industry. During that discussion he brings up how the increasing presence of cameras has the potential to change the way that people interact. He says that being in front of a camera certainly makes him act differently than he does in a more private setting.
This behavioral shift is the problem with sites like Facebook.
Ok, but behavior changes from generation to generation and is often brought about by technology. So why is this particular behavioral shift a bad thing? Aren’t these Luddite concerns?
The sort of behavioral shift that seems to be the trouble is group-think, confirmation bias, and insecurity. Though the three things are distinct phenomenon they share a common thread and are thus treated as the ‘behavioral shift’ in question.
This phenomenon is supported by four ‘emergent properties’ common to all social networks, electronic, and otherwise.
1) The Constant Peanut Gallery
2) Increased Misunderstanding
3) False Security
4) Increased Preening
All of these properties emerge from the need for validation.
Validation is the core of many goods and many ills. It is important to check your perceptions, ideas, and at times your very person against the ideas, opinions, and persons of others. It helps to form a balanced opinion and is arguably the animating principle behind parliamentary government and peer review.
Yet, peer review and parliament often act as agents of confirmation bias rather than guardians of truth. Galileo’s works were reviewed by the experts of his day and found lacking. Does this mean that we should do away with parliament and peer review?
By no means. It was corroboration of his findings that eventually led to their acceptance in the scientific canon. Bad peer review can be reviewed by good peer review. So long as the process is ongoing issues will be resolved.
This brings us to the core of the problem with Facebook: Stagnation.
The constant peanut gallery often leads one to adopt the biologically expedient role of ‘crowd pleasing’ whether consciously or unconsciously. Increased misunderstandings arise because folks choose to share views dampened by crowd pleasing. A false security arises from the perceived confirmation of one’s views and person leading to increased preening or display of those characteristics.
All of these are the recipe for group-think, confirmation bias, and insecurity that form the stagnation which makes Facebook an unsavory medium. The sort of things that I believe to be at the core of Crichton’s concerns while on that panel.
I use Word Press, YouTube, Mastodon, and Minds. These are all social networks in their own right. Am I then being unfair to Facebook? Isn’t vlogging and blogging and posting subject to the same problems as Facebook. Why don’t I get a Facebook account?
Well, for one Facebook has a rather checkered history. It is also different from the sites I choose because it involves ones immediate circle. Due to its reaching so close to home its effectiveness for debate and unbiased analysis of ideas and persons becomes compromised.
It is much easier to focus on ideas and arguments with sites like Word Press and YouTube. All the problems with Facebook do of course occur there but it is with less frequency and degree that they do. This is as I have said due to the close and personal nature of Facebook.
Which not only compromises privacy but brings us all the dark sides of a global village with alarming speed. I am rather cosmopolitan in my outlook so I am not at all promoting provincialism in criticizing ‘the global village.’
It is in fact provincialization that we have to fear from ‘the global village.’ The provincialism of ideas. Human beings despite their variety of cultures and philosophies do share a certain common psychological profile. Due to this common thread all of their variety becomes endangered rather quickly when filtered through one global ‘common room.’
This is why the majority of the world is now California. I’m serious. Look at all the dudes, and jeans, beards, and t-shirts. It’s been going on for quiet a while. This narrowing of style and ideation. Where a girl in Frankfurt is nearly indistinguishable from one in Orange County.
Yes, all right but, Facebook isn’t meant to be a place for the exchange of ideas. It’s meant to be a way to connect with friends!
Ok, well I do have a phone and a car, and an email, and a post office. Why does the whole world need to know of my circle of friends? Why does my circle of friends need to be privy to my every interaction with my circle of friends?
Is shooting messages and inviting/excluding people from events publicly really ‘connecting?’
I rather think it has the opposite effect. To where I can hardly enjoy a beer with friends, without one of them shoving a little screen in my face. Bearing the latest meme or Facebook faux pas, glowing with hi-def brightness that the table behind me can read.
This is why I don’t Facebook.