Sunday, July 5, 2015

Facebook: "Friend" or foe?

I remember when I was learning to use Facebook: I would see what friends were doing, where they were going, and what they were thinking. I understood nearly from the first, the time-wasting qualities of scrolling for interesting articles that people who were my friends had posted. As I used Facebook, I also learned of privacy and security issues. You really do need to be careful of what information you post, and there really are such things as Facebook “stalkers.”

It took me some time, but I did learn that this was not my living room or even a coffee shop; these people that I “friend” are not all close-enough friends to air in public my up-sets, rants or personal problem for all to see; this is tempting for a person who lives alone.

I want to keep up with real friends, and I have very little in the way of free time right now. Facebook seems like a virtual living room or coffee shop, and I see enough of other “friends” lives for me (or anyone) to feel as if this virtual relationship is a real friendship, with real support from people you begin to think of like a surrogate family; which is a danger of this virtual world. Most of the people you “friend” are not real friends. (Yes, some are real friends, but don’t miss the point here.)

A friend is a person you see in person, can hear the sound of their voice, and have shared things with you (and you with them) often enough that you really do know and trust them.

Then there are Facebook friends: some whom I have never have met in person, but I begin to feel like they are real friends. This is where the problems begin.

We all select friends in real life, based on certain criteria; and one criteria is that you actually have something in common with them. Those common things can be a job, faith, hobbies, home life, or collecting bottle caps, or belly-button lint. Whatever!

And if we really care about our friends, we want or hope that they would tell us if we are doing something wrong or dangerous, and we would do the same for them.  We hope our friends would tell us if there is something important we should know about, or even something as mundane as “Excuse me but you have a piece of spinach in your teeth.”

But what is Facebook? 

Facebook is a social-media/marketing tool.  Facebook earns money by being a direct marketing tool, customized by algorithms designed to record your likes, to post advertisements, and various media articles to interest you and your group of “friends.” It is used to collect data from all segments of society, world-wide. It was originally designed to reach groups of college students and record their likes, and follow the trends on what and where they spent money. Taping into this huge market is of prime concern to certain segments of the economy.  Facebook has grown to be a corporate entity, now traded on the stock market, and is a marketing tool used to reach all across society and see what people like, don’t like, and generally to take the “pulse” of all cultures around the world.

But what do we seem to be using Facebook for?

We treat it like a coffee shop of world ideas. We treat our Facebook friends as if they were real friends, and when our “friends” do things which are contrary to what we believe is important, or follow ideas that are counter to the ideas that we hold dear; we feel that we should behave like a good friend and point out to them when we think they are doing something wrong. After all, that is what a good friend is supposed to do.

Yet when these “friends” don’t listen, we try better words, new rhetoric, even “meme’s” and photo cards to reach and teach them. We get righteously angry with them; after all, if they are our “friend” shouldn’t they “get with the program?”

Whatever our political party, we try and educate those who don’t “listen” to us, and convince them to see things our way.

But Facebook is an international marketing tool.

If we are “for” gun control, we will try and correct those misinformed “friends” to see things the “right” way.

But Facebook is used to sell products and attract customers.

If we are some particular segment of theistic believers, we will ask leading, significant questions to tease out our particular brand of orthodoxy, and be certain to correct, (very firmly,) those who just don’t seem to “get it right.”

 But Facebook is used to collect marketing data.

If we are Atheists, we will work on our arguments (ad-hoc or reasoned,) in order to smoke out those weak minded, non-scientific “religious” folks. They certainly have it dead wrong, and need to be educated.

But according to Facebook is a “…popular free social networking website…” but the first important bullet point tell us that Facebook is a “Market place- [it] allows member to post, read and post to classified ads.”

Yes, we can chat. Yes, we can post and see what our friends are doing. Yes, we can post headlines from around the world and keep up with some current events. But Facebook is not private. It is not a closed group. Your “friends” may not be a like-minded group of internet geeks who post private comments within their closed chat-space: that is, unless you use Facebook that way. Honestly, if you really desire a closed group; then create one.

If you want to convince people of your views, take the time to meet these “Facebook” friends and become their real friend. But in the mean-time; maybe those of us with real debate skills can create closed groups to “duke it out” and really get good at rhetoric in print. There is nothing wrong with doing that.

But you are not going to convince ANYONE of ANYTHING on Facebook.
(Yes, I do see the irony of posting a link to this blog post on Facebook.)

But instead:

You may get really good at thrashing someone with words on a screen.

You may get really good at being an Internet “Troll.”

You may get really good at surrounding yourself with only those people who will “like” your posts…for you can un-friend anyone who disagrees with you.

You may get really good at “one-liner” aphorisms that can be turned into “memes.”

But remember, you will only convince those who already agree with your view i.e. preaching to the Choir. 

You will alienate those who do not agree with you, and possibly contribute to creating an even deeper polarization of society.

You cannot get good at debate by typing on a screen.  You need to do that in a group, “for real.”  Spending time perfecting your answers on Facebook is not a debate.

Bringing back the “Town Hall” style debate is another topic for another day.

Rather than give up on Facebook, why don’t we keep social-media social. Enjoy your wide-variety of friends, “like” their photos of kids, pets and vacations; but keep your rhetoric to the closed group or the real-public square, or the real lecture hall, or the real friends over for coffee in your living room.

By the way; let me know what time you will be over.
Bring some snacks, and I’ll provide the coffee or tea.